After our adventurous day on Skye, we drove back to the mainland over the Kyle of Lochalsh bridge, and spent the night in the most charming village called Dornie. We’d booked a room in a random B&B, and it took us totally by surprise how great of a place it turned out to be! The B&B was built into a renovated schoolhouse, and the rooms and the kitchen had almost a Mediterranean feel to them with all the nice tiling, the wooden blinds and the earthy-coloured decor. When we woke up in the morning, the sun was shining and there was fado (or some other Spanish/Portuguese/Latin American style) music playing in the kitchen. The owner of the B&B was taking care of the garden outside and greeted us with a wave through the window. We were both feeling just so happy that we even did a spontaneous little twirl to the music after breakfast!
The weather was truly spectacular that day (before leaving, we even caught a glimpse of the TV weather forecast where they mentioned that Dornie was Britain’s warmest town that day). Before walking up to Eilean Donan Castle – the main reason why we’d stopped in Dornie – we sat outside in the sun in the B&B’s garden and admired the shimmering blue loch in front of us.
Our sunny morning in Dornie, with our poor damaged rental car in the shot
Dornie is situated where three lochs meet. Loch Alsh, Loch Duich and Loch Long aren’t really lakes – they’re pools of seawater – but in Scotland, it’s pretty common for narrow bays/fjords to be called lochs. Eilean Donan Castle sits on a tiny island by Dornie’s shore, right in the middle of the meeting point of the lochs. It’s Scotland’s most photographed castle, probably because of its unusual location and the stone bridge that connects it to the shore. We didn’t see the castle in its most magical setting, though, because it was low tide and instead of the bridge arching over water onto the little island, there was just a massive pool of seaweed sitting under it.
Eilean Donan is one of Scotland’s few castles that are still in private ownership. The castle is the family home of the MacRae clan, and out of respect to the owners, you’re not allowed to take photos inside the rooms. Visiting the place was fascinating, though; there’s a great amount of history inside in the form of books, art, china, furniture and other artefacts. It was also interesting to read about the castle’s history: it was first built in the 13th century, but was partly destroyed in the Jacobite uprising of 1719 and built back up from ruins by John MacRae-Gilstrap over the course of 20 years in the early 1900s.
Even though you weren’t supposed to take photos inside the rooms, I took a couple quick photos of the amazing loch views that the castle’s courtyard offered. It was such a clear day that both the sky and the water looked incredibly blue! It was wonderful to stand there, with the salty smell of sea in the air and a light breeze brushing up against our faces.
After spending the morning exploring the castle, we hopped back into the car for our last little adventure before returning back to Edinburgh. We were so close to Loch Ness that we couldn’t resist taking a peek even though it was going to be a long drive home! Our original plan was to drive all the way up to Drumnadrochit, where the ruins of Urquhart Castle are located, but since we took our time exploring Eilean Donan we decided we’d just drive up to Fort Augustus, the southernmost point of Loch Ness.
Once again, we really enjoyed the Scottish scenery driving up to Fort Augustus. However, when we finally reached the village, we weren’t that impressed – it was quite touristy with lots of Nessie-themed shops and busloads of Chinese people. We ended up getting fish and chips and walking along the shores of the loch. At that point, the weather had cooled down a lot and it was incredibly windy (even by Scottish standards!). It wasn’t actually hard to imagine a monster dwelling in the depths of the dark and restless loch, especially knowing that Loch Ness is the deepest body of water in the UK with a maximum depth of 227 m.
Looking into the distance, it was somehow enchanting to know that beyond the waves and the hills surrounding the loch, there lay Inverness. Originally, we were supposed to make it all the way up to Inverness on our trip, but because of little mishaps along the road, we had to loosen up our schedule a bit. I never got to visit Inverness during my stay in Scotland, which really is a shame, since the town is full of Scottish history (and it’s the place where the Outlander series starts off). I also would’ve loved to visit Culloden battlefield and pay my respects to the Highlanders who fell in the Jacobite uprising. Oh well, I guess you always have to leave something for the next trip!
In a nutshell: the places we visited with R on our Highland roadtrip are all very much worth visiting. Glencoe, the little village of Mallaig and the ferry ride up to Skye, Isle of Skye itself, Dornie and Eilean Donan Castle are all Scottish classics and no trip to Scotland would be complete without them. Loch Ness wasn’t as awe-inspiring as the other spots we visited, but it was nice to cross it off our bucketlists because it’s such a famous place. If you’re driving up to Loch Ness, I’d probably skip Fort Augustus and go see the loch from Inverness or Urquhart Castle instead.
I have a couple more Scotland stories to tell, but I’m also looking forward to sharing photos from Italy and England. Stay tuned for more adventures!