Driving tour of Scottish highlands

Our last day in Scotland was Good Friday, which in the U.K. is a bank holiday. This means that Paul and Michelle had the day off from work, and could hang out with us all day! Paul offered to spend his day off driving us around Scotland – really the only way to see the countryside.

Since none of us are morning people, we didn’t get on the road until 11 am. It was a pretty strange weather day – alternately sunny, rainy, sleeting, and snowing, but always windy and chilly. It was a good day to be inside a vehicle rather than outside walking around. We took the freeway up past Stirling, driving for an hour or so to a small town called Killin. Here we admired the Falls of Dochart, and spent a bit of time in the visitor center. We weren’t quite hungry enough yet for lunch, so we got back in the car and drove for a couple more hours.

As we passed Glencoe, the gently rolling hills started to turn into what might actually be described as actual mountains. There were even a few snowcaps. We stopped a few times for Dave to get out and take photos (the rest of us didn’t want to get out in the cold). The scenery was quite lovely, particularly the many lochs we passed.

We finally arrived in Fort William, the intended terminus of our trek. The goal was to visit the Ben Nevis Distillery, which is at the base of the mountain Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland (at 4,406 feet). We were starving at this point, it being after 2 pm, and we were freezing cold as soon as we got out of the car. We ate at what was probably the closest restaurant to the spot where we parked our car, a restaurant with the not-so-auspicious name “The Great Food Stop”. We walked in and it seemed a lot fancier than the name might have indicated. The service was S-L-O-W but the food was okay and not as pricey as the decor would have suggested. We didn’t get out of there until well after 3 pm, and we hustled back to the car and drove to the distillery.

When we arrived at the distillery, they informed us that we had missed the last tour of the day, and that we would have to come back at for the next tour at 11 am tomorrow. Of course, this was not an option for us. We inquired as to whether we might just do a tasting, and they said that they only do tastings at the end of the tours, which we would have to wait to do at 11 am the next morning. They were quite snooty about our having arrived too late, and we were rather put off by it. After coming all that way, though, we still felt the need to poke around a bit, read the displays in the lobby and gift shop area, and buy a couple of postcards and a small bottle of whisky.

Shrugging off the defeat, we headed back to the car. Paul suggested that we drive down the coast to the seaside town of Oban. Michelle and I dozed in the back seat as we drove into the setting sun. We got to Oban perhaps an hour later. Paul and Michelle took us to their favorite spot there, a monument on a cliff called McCaig’s Tower. It was a neat spot, and offered a beautiful view of the bay. It would have been a good place to sit for a while, have a picnic, and watch the sunset (which wouldn’t actually take place for another hour or so)… except that it was, still, very cold and windy and not too pleasant to be outside. We would have spent some time walking around Oban, which was very quaint and scenic, but it was too bitter out. It was also too soon after our lunch to stop for dinner or even tea, so we piled back into the car and headed back in the direction of Edinburgh.

We were getting to Stirling around 7:45 pm, so we decided to stop there for dinner, rather than get back to Edinburgh to find that everything had closed. Michelle had studied there about ten years before, and had a few ideas of places where we might eat. However, we got into the center of town to find that the restaurants were no longer there! We ended up eating at this American-themed restaurant called The Filling Station. I don’t recommend it! Not only was the food not great, the service was terrible. As I told Dave, “We’re never eating there again.”

We got back to Edinburgh rather late, and had to pack and get ready for our EARLY flight the next morning.

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