Scotland is one of my absolute favourite coach holiday destinations, particularly in late summer when the heather is in bloom. So it was great to be heading north in early September and particularly to be heading onto the Hebridean islands of Skye and Mull – two places I’d never been before.
Here’s the lowdown on what we got up to:
When we’re heading up to northern Scotland, we always have a stopover to break the journey. After all, you’re on holiday! You don’t want to be travelling on the coach for 13 or 14 hours to get up to your destination.
Our overnight stays on the outward and return journeys were both at the Erskine Bridge Hotel on the outskirts of Glasgow. It is a good location to stop as it is fairly quiet, and the hotel serves the purpose of a convenient overnight break with reasonable rooms and food.
From Glasgow we travelled north to the Isle of Skye and the Dunollie Hotel in Broadford. The Dunollie is in a fantastic location just 15 minutes from the Skye Bridge, on the main road across Skye, and has stunning views over the bay. It was lovely to sit and have dinner each night looking over stunning Scottish landscapes as the sun set.
The food at this hotel was excellent with a full Scottish Breakfast and delicious evening meals served buffet style. We also had haggis, neeps and tatties as a starter to give a proper Scottish feel to the stay.
Continuing to Mull, we stayed at the Isle of Mull Hotel, just outside Craignure which is the mainland ferry terminus on the island. On first impressions the Isle of Mull Hotel looked a little unkempt from the outside – but first impressions can be extremely deceiving!!
Inside, the hotel has an elegant, relaxed feeling with stunning views eastwards from the restaurant looking towards the Nevis Range on the mainland. The quality of food in the restaurant was absolutely superb, and was easily the best menu of our stay.
After our stopover in Glasgow, our second day was spent driving through the Highlands to Skye. I always say there are two types of tour in Scotland – the scenic tour (sunny) and the atmospheric tour (rainy) – and today we enjoyed the atmospheric tour!
The journey from Glasgow to Skye is a stunning route, travelling across the eerie Rannoch Moor and down Glen Coe to Fort William, where we enjoyed a lunch stop, before heading part way along the Caledonian Canal and then across to the Kyle of Lochalsh and the Skye Bridge, passing beautiful Eilean Donan Castle on the way. It’s a route that never fails to impress, on either the scenic or the atmospheric tour!
On day three we spent the day exploring the northern peninsula of Skye, known as the Trotternish loop. This is a stunning drive over the Cuillin Hills, past Portree and out towards the Old Man of Storr, where we had a photo stop, before continuing around the single-track coastal road. Luckily there were plenty of passing places!
Just over halfway around the route we stopped at the Museum of Island Life, which is a collection of cottages preserved in the traditional island way of life. It is well worth a visit and cost just £3 to go in (September 2018) – and is located just a short walk from the grave of Flora MacDonald, who brought Bonnie Prince Charlie “over the sea to Skye”.
Then it was on to Portree for lunch and free time to explore the town and harbour before heading back to the hotel.
Our time on Skye came to an end on day four and we took the morning ferry across to Mallaig, travelling along the Road to the Isles. This is a stunning scenic route that roughly follows the route of the West Highland Line, also known as the Jacobite Railway, and was voted one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the world by National Geographic.
Our route to Lochaline, for the crossing to Mull, took us along 50 miles of single track roads with passing places where we were lucky to get about 25 miles an hour!! A thoroughly enjoyable and beautiful drive for everyone except Nigel – but luckily not a busy route.
We took the short 15 minute crossing onto Mull and headed up to Duart Castle, seat of Clan MacLean, where we had an included visit.
The castle stands on a promontory looking out to the mainland near Craignure, and is well worth a visit. Some of the walls are 3.8 metres thick!
What’s incredible about the castle is that by 1911 it had been a ruin for more than 200 years. At that time Sir Fitzroy Maclean, the then Chief of Clan MacLean, at 75 years of age, bought the castle back (the clan had lost it following the Jacobite Rebellion) and completely rebuilt it. He did not expect to see the project’s completion, but lived to the grand age of 101!!
Our full day exploring Mull and Iona was arranged with a local coach company so that Nigel could have a day off to keep legal with his driving hours, and a lovely driver called Chris from West Coast Motors took us across the island and provided excellent commentary on our journey.
At Fionnphort we boarded the foot ferry across to Iona, where we had an included visit to Iona Abbey. The Abbey is absolutely beautiful and also has a fascinating museum charting the history of the Abbey through its stones – well worth spending some time there. We also made a new friend!
Our penultimate day was the beginning of our homeward journey, taking the morning ferry across to Oban and the mainland. After an extended stop in Oban for lunch, we travelled south past Loch Lomond to the Erskine Bridge Hotel for our final overnight stay.
The whole holiday was a fantastic panoramic experience of stunning vistas, mountains and seascapes, blended with the history and tradition of Island life. Skye in particular is a place I could definitely return to, although I would absolutely recommend the entire tour as something to add to your bucket list!
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