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.
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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!
Here’s info on our ENTIRE Scotland road trip!
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.
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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!
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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…
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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!
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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…
I very much enjoyed this honors system one-stop-shop roadside stand…
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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.
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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!!!
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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.
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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!
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!
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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