Two days off the grid with stunning landscapes and I’m not sure my eyes have seen a more beautiful place. On Wednesday, we departed Edinburgh via coach for Fort Augustus, 160 miles northwest through the Scottish Highlands. There were several stops along the way as we skirted the dramatic peaks (over 4000 feet in elevation – nothing like the Rockies, but just as breathtaking) along Cairngorm National Park.
Our tour guide, Sergio, detailed the grueling mid-18th century battles of the Jacobite army rising in Scotland under the exiled court of King James II and we visited a few of the battle sites.
With a quick stop in the small village of Dunkeld in Perthshire, we were able to take some fantastic photos along the River Tay, the longest river in Scotland and the seventh-longest in all of the United Kingdom.
Loch Ness was one of the highlights of this trip. Hearing fabled stories of the Loch Ness Monster as a child, it was a must-see on this trip, of course, with high hopes of catching a glimpse of Nessie. The loch is much bigger than I had imagined, stretching over 22 miles. It’s the largest loch by volume in the British Isles. Our overnight stay at the Richmond House Hotel in Fort Augustus was just feet from the legendary Loch Ness. They gave us a room in the loft of this quaint Bed and Breakfast and it was quite a heavenly place to stay. The room had so much character and the views of the village houses behind the Inn were so charming.
Day two of this trip was exciting as we boarded the famous Jacobite steam train featured in the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express. It’s regarded as one of the world’s greatest train journeys as its route passes a list of impressive viewpoints including Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. We rode the Hogwarts Express from Fort Augustus to Mallaig, a small fishing town on the western coast of the Scottish Highlands, had a delicious lunch and then rode back to Fort Augustus. It was spectacular! Check out our video of us traveling over the now famous Glenfinnan Viaduct featured in the Harry Potter movies. Below is a little slide show of photos from the train.
The highlight of our afternoon was a stop in Glencoe, a steep-sided valley in the Scottish Highlands with three sister mountains called Hope, Faith, and Charity. We got lucky and happened upon a bagpiper in traditional Scottish dress, piping with the most stunning backdrop. As soon as we recorded his final song against the mountain scenery, he was off. A chance encounter, for sure.
My choice food photo from this excursion is dessert in Mallaig at The Tea Garden Cafe where I had the most exquisite scones with blackberry jam and cream. It looks amazing and it tasted divine.
Until we meet again, Scotland. Today…London’s calling.