Out & About
TO THE NORTH
Inverness & The Great Glen
Head north on the A82 travelling through the huge geological fault known as the Great Glen, which bisects the Highlands from Inverness to Fort William. Reaching Fort Augustus you can opt for one of two routes. Continue along the A82 and take the more usual 'tourist' route, passing famous Urquhart Castle and then dropping into Drumnadrochit which boasts 2 'Nessie' exhibitions! Turning onto the A831 towards the village of Cannich takes you to beautiful Glen Affric and from here continue this scenic and leisurely route to Inverness via Beauly.
Alternatively, at Fort Augustus turn onto the B862 which takes you on the rugged south side of Loch Ness. The road rises steeply round the southern edge of Loch Ness till you reach the plateau at Chuimen's Viewpoint, a view best seen travelling north. Turn left onto the B852 to Foyers and Dores and follow the water's edge, with clear views of Urquhart Castle. The Falls of Foyers and the forest trail at Inverfarigaig offer stopping off points before either continuing onwards towards Inverness or taking the B851 to the Culloden Moor battlefield or Fort George areas to the east of the city.
TO THE SOUTH
Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glencoe
Heading south on the A82 takes you past the mighty Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, which dominates the beautiful Glen Nevis. Fort William, the main town of the West Highlands, offers shopping, history and the start and end of both the Great Glen Way and West Highland Way. It is also now the start point of the new East Highland Way. Continue along the A82 with Loch Linnhe on your right, before taking a worthwhile 14 mile detour at North Ballachullish to Kinlochleven. Back on the A82, be prepared for a breathtaking vista, as you enter the brooding Glen Coe, rich with history, climbing options and photo opportunities.
TO THE EAST
Badenoch & Strathspey
Head eastwards on the A86 past the dam at Loch Laggan to Newtonmore and Kingussie. Travelling along the loch you pass Craig Meagaidh and the nature reserve on your left. Further on, looking across the loch, is Ardverikie House, which was used as the location for the popular Monarch of the Glen TV series. Click here for more information.
A right turn after several miles by the loch takes you to Dalwhinnie with its picturesque distillery.
TO THE WEST
The Road to the Isles and Ardnamurchan
Leave the A82 at the Commando Memorial just north of Spean Bridge and join the B8004 to Gairlochy, cross the Caledonian Canal and turn left to Fort William. The views of the Nevis range are magnificent. Follow the canal to Banavie where you can visit Neptune's Staircase - a series of massive locks on the canal. Join the A830 and turn right onto 'The Road to The Isles'.
Glenfinnan at the head of Loch Shiel is the site of the famous monument to the gathering of the clans where the Jacobite standard was raised in 1745. During the summer the Jacobite Steam Train runs from Fort William to Mallaig - a truly memorable journey. Glenfinnan viaduct has been featured in all the Harry Potter movies. Take the coastal route through Arisaig, a beautiful fishing village with views to Rum and Eigg, and beyond to the white sands of Morar. Mallaig is a major west coast fishing port and also the terminal for the Skye and other island ferries.
On returning you may extend your tour by joining the A861 at Lochailort, travelling on through the stunning scenery of Moidart until you reach Salen on Loch Sunart. At this point the A8007 will take you through the Ardnamurchan peninsula to the most westerly point on mainland Britain; the sunsets are breathtaking as you look out to Mull and Coll from the lighthouse.
From Salen travel east to Strontian along the shore of beautiful Loch Sunart keeping an eye out for otters, golden eagles, pine martens and deer. Travel east to Ardgour and cross the narrows by ferry to Corran. Turn left onto the A82 and return via Fort William.
TO THE NORTH EAST
The Cairngorms National Park & Speyside
Take the A86 from Spean Bridge and continue through Roy Bridge, and onto Newtonmore where a left turn takes you towards Kingussie. Then continue on towards Aviemore, maybe stopping off at Loch Insh (famous for its water sports), the Cairngorm mountains with the 1.25 mile Funicular Railway or the Rothiemurchas Estate. At Boat of Garten visit the ospreys at the famous RSPB Centre or take the Strathspey Steam Railway. Attractive Grantown on Spey marks the start of the 'Whisky Trail' with many renowned distilleries such as Cragganmore, Glenfiddich, Aberlour and Glenlivit, all within a few miles.
TO THE SOUTH EAST
Blair Atholl & Pitlochry
Head east on the A86 towards Dalwhinnie, with its famous distillery, then join the A9 road heading south towards Perth. The House of Bruar, known as 'The Harrods of the North' is an ideal stop for coffee or retail therapy. Here you can also visit the falls of Bruar. Close by is the village of Blair Atholl and one of Scotland's most interesting and well presented castles. Blair Castle is not only steeped in history, but also has extensive and beautifully kept gardens. A little further on is Pitlochry, one of the prettiest and most unspoilt rural Highland towns. With a range of good country shops and its own small theatre, it is also the location of a Hydro - Electric Dam, complete with glass cased salmon ladder, at the head of Loch Faskally. While in the town you can pay a visit to Edradour Distillery, the smallest in Scotland.
TO THE SOUTH WEST
Oban & Mull
A day trip to Oban begins on the A82 road south via Fort William and Onich, hugging the shore of beautiful Loch Linnhe and taking in a trio of ancient 'Clan' Castles – Stalker, Dunstaffnage and Dunollie. Just before Oban, at Benderloch, is the popular Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary.
Oban, dominated by McCaig's Folly, an imitation of the Coliseum in Rome, is a busy town and the main stepping stone by car or passenger ferry onto the Isle of Mull, then on again to Iona where you can take a boat trip to Staffa and the world famous Fingal's Cave. With a little forward planning, both Iona and Staffa are easily achievable day excursion destinations from Glen Spean and the Great Glen. You can purchase all inclusive journey tickets from Oban to Iona and Staffa or consider taking your own car across to Mull. This option enables you to tour the island and return to Glen Spean and the Great Glen via the Fishnish/Lochaline ferry, the remote Morvern peninsula and finally the Corran Ferry to regain the A82 northwards to Fort William.
TO THE NORTH WEST
The Isle of Skye
Travel north on the A82 past Loch Lochy and Loch Oich to Invergarry, home of the 'The Well of the Seven Heads' - infamous for its connection with the Keppoch murders in the 17th century. Joining the A87 at Invergarry travel along the shores of Loch Garry for six miles before passing the left hand junction to Tomdoun and Kinloch Hourn (an excellent short tour in its own right). Continuing on the A87 road will take you past Loch Cluanie, often providing a mirror image of the mountains rising from its far shore. This road, voted as one of the ten top most beautiful scenic routes in the UK, skirts to the south of The Five Sisters of Kintail and on towards Eilean Donan Castle, still the home of the Macraes and one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. At Glenelg a small car ferry operates Easter to October across the narrows at Kylerhea with its otter haven. Returning to the A87 travel along Loch Duich to the Skye Bridge and onwards to Portree. The Isle of Skye is a large island on which the road system naturally provides three distinct loops, the northern (Uig) and western (Dunvegan) loops leading to a return to the mainland by the Bridge and the southern loop (Armadale) making a return journey to Glen Spean and The Great Glen possible via ferry to Mallaig and The Road 'from' The Isles. If returning by the bridge, a short detour at Kyle of Lochalsh will take you to Loch Carron and the coastal village of Plockton.
About 3 miles north of the Commando Memorial in Spean Bridge, turn right at the signpost to Glen Gloy. Although the road is narrow and twisty this old drover's route gives an immediate feeling of remoteness and tranquillity.
A beautiful drive which can be as long or as short as time allows. Cross the Caledonian Canal, and continue to the Dark Mile, at the end of which is the Witches Pool at the Cia-aig Falls. A stone staircase leads you to the top of the falls which are spectacular in full flood. This beautiful spot was used as a location in the film 'Rob Roy'. A short distance to the west of the Dark Mile is Achnacarry House, the home of Donald Cameron of Locheil, chief of the Clan Cameron, and Clan Cameron Museum in the estate grounds. The road alongside Loch Arkaig continues for 14 beautiful miles, so drive as far as time permits.
At Invergarry take the A87 for 3 miles along beautiful Loch Garry, then join the minor road signposted left for Kinloch Hourn. This is a long (22 miles) but unique drive through beautiful countryside where you may see deer, eagle and mountain hare. The road travels along the side of Loch Quoich before descending the last few miles to the head of Loch Hourn; the road is quite narrow and twisting but worth the effort. You can park beside the water and take the footpath as far as you wish to go and even pick fresh mussels along the water's edge. Hillwalkers use this as the starting point to cross Knoydart, one of the most remote areas in Scotland, to Inverie on Loch Nevis - a classic walk but not for the inexperienced.
HIGHBRIDGE / KILMONIVAIG
Now in ruins, the bridge has its place in history as the spot where the first shots of the Jacobite uprising were fired in 1745. A cairn at the roadside relates the story. Continue on for another 3 miles, enjoying great views of the Nevis Range, until you reach Kilmonivaig. The road ends here but you can extend your drive by back tracking to the signpost for Camisky and following the now little used road to Fort William emerging at Torlundy.
A beautiful 10 mile minor road and track from the village of Roy Bridge takes you along a tranquil route to the 'Parallel Roads', tracks which run symmetrically around the sides of the glen. Were they created by Fingal (the Celtic warrior), early Kings of Scotland who lived nearby or, indeed, modern-day foresters? In fact they were formed during the last ice age when advancing glaciers dammed a series of huge lakes in the glen. These left behind a set of shorelines that can be clearly seen on the hillsides today. The glen is always wonderfully peaceful, even at the height of the summer, and you may be lucky enough to spot some rare wildlife, including golden eagles.
The lovely little church of Cille Choirill sits high above the road on the summit of Tom Aingeal, about a mile beyond Roy Bridge on the A86. Dedicated to St Cairell, a sixth century Irish bishop, the earliest church recorded on this holy spot is said to have been built by a 15th century Cameron chief, but the site would undoubtedly have been hallowed ground long before that. The present building was restored in 1932 by the efforts of local people aided by support from the descendants of emigrant clans folk in Nova Scotia. For centuries Cille Choirill has been the ancestral burial place of the MacDonells of Keppoch, many of whose monuments still survive. The famous warrior-bard Iain Lom MacDonald who died in 1709 is said to lie here, although the tall beautiful carved stone commemorating him does not mark the actual grave. Cille Choirill has also featured in the BBC TV series Monarch of the Glen.
Instantly recognisable as 'Glenbogle' from the much-loved TV series 'Monarch of the Glen', Ardverikie House was built on the site of an even older house going back to the time of King Fergus, who is reputed to be buried on an island in the middle of the loch. Queen Victoria stayed there when journeying through the Highlands and at one time this house was to have been her Scottish home. The house and grounds are not open to the public, but the house can be seen from the A86 on the opposite side of Loch Laggan.