Part two of my one-week Scottish Highlands roadtrip itinerary. If you’re looking for the perfect trip to Scotland’s highlands, then this is the post for you. Read part one (Days 1-3) here!
Day 4: Drive to the Isle of Skye via Urquhart Castle, Eilean Donnan Castle
Morning/Early Afternoon: Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness Center
No trip to the Scottish Highlands would be completed without at least a few turns around ruined castles or abbeys. After checking out of your anything-but ruined abbey (AirBnb link here!), head to the learn the fascinating history of Urquhart Castle. This was the only day we had rain the entire trip (and, of course, it was my birthday!), but it’s easy to pop into parts of the castle to stay dry — and soak in the beautiful views of THE Loch Ness nestled right beside the castle.
A scant 6 minute drive away (thanks Google) is the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. Nick and I came here with little expectation, but let me tell you: I loved it. Less museum, more attraction, you are guided through a series of rooms recounting the myth and science of Loch Ness’s (and its most beloved creature, Nessie!). If you are a fan of Nessie, Loch Ness, kitchy local things, or just Scottish history, make sure to stop by this gem.
Lunch Stop: Cafe Eighty2 //
The perfect pit stop for lunch is Cafe Eighty2, an adorable, cozy tearoom-style cafe that serves the most delicious lunch (and cake!). We ended up just grabbing a slice of chocolate cake here — it was my birthday, after all — but I had wished I was hungry for a full lunch.
Afternoon: Drive to the Isle of Skye via Eilean Donnan Castle (1 hr 16 min to the castle)
Of all the beautiful drives we did and scenic views we saw, the drive from the mainland to the Isle of Skye was my favorite. I wish I had pictures to show, but so much of the extraordinary scenes were on the road. Make sure to leave enough time for this incredible journey, soaking in the awe of the orange and brown mountainsides around you as you wind your way ‘over the sea to Skye.’
On the way is Eilean Donnan Castle. We were a little delayed that day, leaving us no time to stop at the castle and to finish the drive to Skye before dark. We just pulled over to take some photos and visit the gift shop. But, I would highly recommend taking time to stop here — I’ve heard its one of the best castles to visit.
Evening: Relax & Dinner at The Three Chimneys and The House Over-By
Once you’ve made the 2 hour 30 minute journey to Skye, you’ll be happy to arrive at The Three Chimneys, located in the more-remote northwestern area of Skye. While in my first post I raved about Killiehuntly Farmhouse, here, I’m doing nothing but raving about The Three Chimneys. Both accommodations are two of the best I’ve ever stayed. And if that isn’t an accolade for Scotland, I don’t know what is. Everything from the room (luxurious, spacious, cozy) to the little details (a keepsake scented candle, tea and biscuits on arrival) just make this place exquisite. We booked dinner at the hotel restaurant, which is less a casual restaurant, more of an upscale-dining experience: the perfect place to celebrate my birthday dinner.
One thing to keep in mind: when staying at The Three Chimneys, you are not in or near any big town, so don’t expect to be able to do much. That said, once it’s dark on the Isle of Skye, nothing sounds better than a cozy night in with a gin and tonic in a snug living area with views of the sea. And luckily for you, that’s what you’ll get here.
Day 5: Explore Isle of Skye, Talisker Whisky Tour; Fairy pools; Quiraing Drive
Morning: Talisker Whisky Tour & A Walk in the Fairy Pools
Really, this should say: wake up and feast on The Three Chimney’s three-course-bloody-amazing Breakfast of Dreams. I am not an egg or breakfast person, really. But their smoked salmon and eggs was simply heaven on Earth.
And trust me, you’ll need that big ol’ breakfast before heading out to yes, drink morning whiskey at the Talisker Distillery. If you read the first part of this trip, you’ll know I’m not a fan of whisky, while Nick lives for it. However, I thoroughly enjoyed doing multiple whisky tours. And I’m honest, the Talisker one was my favorite — let alone because of how beautiful it looks set against the Skye scenery.
We took our Talisker gifts for friends back home and decided to just ‘go for a drive.’ Well, that drive ended up at one of the prettiest walks we did on the trip: a walk out to The Fairy Pools. Which we happened upon by accident, because I saw a sign for “Fairy Pools” and nearly grabbed the wheel out of Nick’s hands. There’s a dedicated parking lot at the walk entrance, conveniently, but it does get busy. That said, the walk in and among the boasting, beautiful hills is completely and utterly worth it.
We kept the walk short, in order to do more driving and seeing the sights. If you do that, you can drive the 30 min or so to Portree for lunch — Portree being the biggest town on the Isle of Skye. But, if you wanted, you could make the walk to The Fairy Pools much longer and then lunch on snacks & provisions in the car.
And a final word of warning: be careful driving on the roads deep in the Isle of Skye. We managed to get our car stuck in the mud, blocking traffic for about 20 minutes in either direction. Yes, we needed to get a bunch of strangers to help push us out of the mud. And yes, I did fall in the mud.
Afternoon: Drive the Quiraing Pass Starting & Ending in Portree
The Quiraing is technically the name of the mountain peak in the Northeast corner of the Isle of Skye. But luckily for us, there is a ring road that runs all the way around the peak, known as the Quiraing Pass, and is considered one of the most beautiful drives you can do. Begin from Portree and drive clockwise (that way, the water is on your side of the road for the drive). It’s a 40 min drive to the top, so plan on at least two hours for the whole drive.
Evening: Enjoy a drink at The Merchant Bar / Dinner at Dulse & Brose
Much like The Fairy Ring, we also stumbled upon The Merchant Bar when looking for a place to park. There, like a glory beacon, was a beautiful, cozy pub with a great atmosphere, the perfect place for a post-drive (and pre-dinner) tipple. Next door is Dulse & Brose, so we put our names down for a table after our drink (make sure to do this, as it gets busy. There aren’t that many restaurants in Portree). It ended up being one of my favorite meals, and evenings, of the whole trip.
We drove from Portree back to The Three Chimneys and ended our night with a gin & tonic in their lounge before bed.
Day 6: Drive Back to Inverness via The Torridon (2.5 hours)
Morning: Visit Broadford / Scenic Drive around Skye
See note above about breakfast of the Gods, because this is how you will spend your morning again.
It was time to say goodbye to the Isle of Skye, so make the most of your drive out by stopping in some of the smaller towns. We discovered Broadford also by accident, a cute and villagey-looking cluster of shops right off one of the main roads. Expect antiques and high quality Skye souvenirs. We picked up a beautiful drawing by a local artist at The Skye Gift Co and a candle at the Isle of Skye Candle Company.
We then made the winding, simply beautiful drive from the Isle of Skye back onto the mainland. But first, time for a spot of tea.
Late Afternoon: Afternoon Tea at The Torridon
As a birthday surprise, Nick booked us in for an afternoon tea at The Torridon, a historic and cozy hotel that also has a restaurant and tearoom. The grounds are simply stunning, and the afternoon tea was such a delight. Stopping at The Torridon not only helps break up the drive back to Inverness (about 3 hr 15 min — going to The Torridon adds about an hour), but you drive back via a different route than you came in. This way, you get to see more of the gorgeous landscape. And boy, let me tell you: the drive from The Torridon to Inverness was spectacular.
Evening: Check-in at Tali Ayer / Dinner in Nairn
With an early flight back home the next day, you could spend your last evening in Inverness again. However, wanting to see more of the area, we opted to stay in Nairn, a small nearby town not too far from Inverness Airport. It’s also not too far from Cawdor Castle, famed for being Macbeth’s castle of residence. We didn’t get there until about 5pm, knowing it was likely closed but wanting to see it anyway. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season regardless, but I’d recommend nipping by on the off chance it’s open.
We stayed at Tali Ayer, a gorgeous country house and boutique B&B. With such welcoming hosts and a spacious yet cozy room, it was the perfect one-night stay. We grabbed a curry for dinner in Nairn, but anything local would be good. A blissful night’s slumber, and then an early flight to London the next morning.
Save for Later