As much as we didn’t want to leave Orkney, we were excited for what we’d encounter on our drive down through the Highlands to Kennacraig, where we’d camp for the night before catching the ferry to Islay.
For the first half of the day we had fairly clear weather, and took every opportunity to pull over and take pictures or explore a bit.
Check out that castle right on the cliff overlooking the sea. I’m fairly certain it is Dunrobin Castle, but we didn’t have time to stop and tour. (Next time!)
Cow! We had been expecting to see far more of these longhorn beauties all over the Highlands, but no such luck. We spotted this guy and his three buddies, and perhaps one or two others from the road, but that was it for the entire trip. I asked Andrew, the lovely gentleman from Big Tree who drove us to the train station in Perth, about the lack of them, but he had no answer. He did suggest we come back for the Highland Games because we’d see plenty then. (Next time!)
Loch Ness! We both actually squealed when it came into view. Fortunately the lay-by we pulled into had a stairway down to the rocky beach below, so we took a few moments to stand on the shoreline and take some photos (and steal a rock or two, and dip our fingers into the water).
We stopped at Drumnadrochit to see the exhibit and gift shops, expecting the cheesiest display of monster lore possible. However, we were happily surprised by a very well-done history of the Loch itself, as well as its geology and marine composition and life. The possibility of a monster was discussed with a skeptic’s eye but open to the possibility. We were also surprised to learn that the Loch does not actually contain much in the way of fish life. It’s not as diverse an underwater community as one might imagine.
Urquhart Castle, overlooking Loch Ness. We did not pay the admission fee to tour it, as it was absolutely crawling with tour buses full of people. But we stopped for a few photos from the hill above.
Further along down the road we decided to find a good lay-by to pull over and have some sandwiches and tea. While waiting for the water to boil, we looked around and could see an old graveyard a short walk from where we were (just outside of Invermoriston). So, after eating, we ventured down and had a pleasant walk through a picturesque little graveyard full of mainly military graves. Kim and I both very much enjoy old graveyards for not only the beautiful stonework and peace therein, but the rich history you can discover about an area.
Just beyond the graveyard we stepped in to use a public restroom and discovered a short walking rail to a waterfall. It was a complete fluke, but we took advantage of the opportunity and hiked about three minutes to the edge of a rather scary drop overlooking a raging torrent of water. Sadly my pictures do it no justice.
Continuing on, we met with rain and fog for most of the duration of our drive. We passed by Glen Coe and Ben Nevis (they would have been short diversions from the road we were on), but decided it wasn’t worth stopping as the rain was rather heavy and the fog made visibility rather low.
The upshot is that as we got closer to Kennacraig and the rain began to move out, we were rewarded with some spectacular views.
In continuing with our theme of happening “by chance” into some amazing sites, we pulled over in a large off-road parking area to double check google maps and realized we were parked next to this lovely little church. Which, oh hey check it out, is full of medieval graves. We could have spent far more time than the fifteen minutes we gave ourselves. We will definitely be back to this spot. Also, I’m beginning to think it was less us landing by luck in amazing places and more that it’s impossible to NOT land in amazing places in Scotland. This lovely spot is in Kilmartin.
We approached the ferry at Kennacraig just as the sun was starting to set and had assumed we’d find plenty around the area. However, the ferry was rather isolated, and it didn’t seem there was much closeby. We ended up taking a road leading to Skipness, and found a spot to camp for the night near the Arran ferry, right on the water. This was our first time wild camping. It felt a bit crazy, being from the US, to just pick a random spot off the road to spend the night. But, there were a few other campervans randomly dotted along the same beach area, so we picked a flat spot and parked.
As you might guess being not far from the Arran ferry, that island across the water from us is the Isle of Arran. There were lots of seagulls, storks, and pheasants about to keep us entertained as it got dark.
We had picked up some small meat pies at a Morrison’s along the way and ate those (with some good Scottish whisky to wash it down) while watching the birds and the sunset. Another magical day in the books.