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Old 12th November 2011, 11:32   #16
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Originally Posted by MileCruncher

Furthermore, the car is KV10 reg which means its registered anywhere in between March 2010 and Sep 2010 so at the youngest its 1 year old.

Could you share a bit more info of the car please
T-BHP never ceases to amaze. This trip was in May-June 2010. I am creating the travelogue based on emails I sent to my family during the trip. I never knew how registration plates in the UK are coded till I looked it up following your post.
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Old 27th November 2011, 12:30   #17
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So finally, we settled into the C Class, and were off, on our way to the Scottish Highlands. We had studied a number of alternate routes using Google Maps while planning our trip, and decided to use the route through the A9, viz. north over the Forth Bridge (which goes over the Firth of Forth) and through Perth and Pitlochry on to Inverness. The route map is given below (have also attached a link to the live Google Map)

Source: Google Maps
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Princes Street to Bunchrew, Inverness, Inverness-Shire, UK - Google Maps

As soon as I touched the accelerator, even in the slow Edinburgh traffic, I realized that this was a very different car compared to the B class. The car was extremely responsive, and handled extremely well. Within a few minutes, I was commenting to my wife on how we were very lucky to get this car, which was a real pleasure to drive. The difference between the driving dynamics of a C Class and the ordinary Accords / Superbs et al that we drive has to be experienced to be believed.

We exited Edinburgh, which is a compact town, rather quickly and were soon on the motorway leading to the Forth Bridge. Scotland has a large number of marine inlets (or creeks) called Firths, and lakes (called Lochs). Just to the north of Edinburgh lies the Firth of Forth. The Forth bridge is an extremely beautiful suspension bridge - once again much longer than our sea link. We took our first halt immediately after crossing the bridge, stopping to take a number of pictures.


Views of the Firth Bridge
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On the way to Perth (Scotland, not Western Australia)
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Then we continued on the motorway till a town called Perth, after which the road turned into a 4 lane (2 each way) highway, followed by 2 lane sections. Even the countryside around Edinburgh is extremely beautiful - but as we progressed past Perth, it became even more so. The roads were full of fabulous, twisty mountain sections, and the C Class really wanted to fly through them. It took a great degree of will power to stay at the limit (70 mph on 4 lane roads, and 60 mph on 2 lane roads) on such beautiful roads with a fabulous machine that was itching to speed.

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant and craft centre close to the town of Pitlochry, the site of one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, which is also famous for its salmon runs (incidentally, there is a building in Bandra called Pitlochry, and I once came close to renting a flat there). Lunch was really good - a tasty lentil soup and some nice macaroni, which even our kid liked. After a rather long halt for lunch, we resumed our journey towards Inverness.


Street Sign, between Perth and Pitlochry
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After a several more halts to admire the scenery (there are "lay-bys" built every few miles to give people an opportunity to pull off the road and rest, as well as to admire the scenery), we approached Inverness around 6 pm. We had taken over 6 hours to cover 160 miles - which was a reflection of the number of halts we made rather than anything else.


Some fabulous sights between Perth and Inverness
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Our hotel, Bunchrew House, is a 15th century baronial mansion, located on the shores of Beauly Firth, a few miles from Inverness. The GPS navigation did its job, and guided us through Inverness on the road towards our hotel.

The road just before Bunchrew runs directly along the sea - just before the hotel, it turns inland, with thickly forested woods along the coast. To get to the hotel, one turns off the highway and drives for about half a mile through the woods.

The road to Bunchrew House
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The first sight of Bunchrew had us spell bound - a beautiful house by the sea, with trees surrounding it on the other three sides. The staff was warm and friendly, and carried our luggage to our room, which was on the second floor. The room was magnificent - if anything, the photos shown online did not fully convey its size. The bathroom alone was almost as large as the entire studio apartment we had in London.

Some pictures of Bunchrew House
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We quickly freshened up and headed for a walk on the grounds. The grounds were eerily quiet (at least for Bombayites) with the silence occasionally interrupted by the sound of trains trundling along. When we moved out of the sheltered garden to the windward side (closer to the sea), we were hit by a biting cold breeze. Even though it was almost mid June, temperatures were below 10 degrees C, and a week earlier, minimums had been below freezing.

We then headed for dinner. The chef at Bunchrew is Michelin star rated, and took the effort to make some vegetarian food for us, but his repertoire of dishes with understated flavors was not exactly to our taste. But we were so delighted with the drive, and the beauty of the location that we were in no mood to crib. The drive to the Scottish Highlands had exceeded all our expectations, and we eagerly awaited the rest of our Scottish holiday.
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Old 28th November 2011, 13:06   #18
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Default Re: Hayek's Road Trips : England, Wales and Scotland

Amazing and crisp write-up with nice pics. You took me into flashback as I have visited many places in this travelogue during August this year. I did haghlands from Edinburg by a hired taxi and the drive was memorable as weather was much warmer. We even met with a minor accident on the way, and although accident is not the thing to remember, what was amazing was the promptness of local Police and how people respect the law.

Looking for your next parts eagerly.
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Old 28th November 2011, 14:37   #19
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Nice travelog, scotland is really beautiful, did you also visit that lake made famous by the Lockness monster?
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Old 28th November 2011, 16:22   #20
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Hai Hayek,

A great thread with lots of details, lovely story and photos that make it come alive. Tnx for sharing the small details.

Reminded of my own trip to Europe and UK, drove a lot in and around Scotland. Did an End to End drive, John O Grartes in the North and Lands in the South on a Europe car rental, our UK drive start from post no. 129, details here:

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...end-end-4.html (Road Trip–2700 KMs Europe & 3380 KMS UK + end-to-end.)

We took the Inverness, Fort Agustus route to Keswick, Lake Dsitrict, drove down to Bristol stayed then drove to Land's End.

Looking forward to read more.

--Ramky

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Originally Posted by Hayek View Post
So finally, we settled into the C Class, and were off, on our way to the Scottish Highlands. ............................................... all our expectations, and we eagerly awaited the rest of our Scottish holiday.

Last edited by ramkya1 : 28th November 2011 at 16:29.
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Old 3rd December 2011, 19:58   #21
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Originally Posted by Jayant..B View Post
I have visited many places in this travelogue ... the drive was memorable ... what was amazing was the promptness of local Police and how people respect the law.
Agree fully. The safety consciousness during road works was also amazing as I will describe subsequently.

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Originally Posted by motomaverick View Post
did you also visit that lake made famous by the Lockness monster?
Yes, I did visit Loch Ness - shall describe it later in this post

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Originally Posted by ramkya1 View Post
Did an End to End drive, John O Grartes in the North and Lands in the South on a Europe car rental, our UK drive start from post no. 129, details here:
Man, that's one amazing and inspirational drive.

We had been briefed exhaustively by my wife's cousin on what could be done in Scotland. So on our first full day at Inverness, we set out immediately after breakfast (viz by 945 am) for Clansman Harbor on Loch Ness, which is the base for cruises on the lake. On the way, we stopped at a supermarket to stock up (usual stuff) for our picnic. The drive to Clansman offered spectacular views of the Loch, with the road set on a ridge above the lake, but we did not have much time to enjoy the sight.

Our Route for the Day - Bunchrew via Loch Ness to Glen Affric (Source: Google Maps)
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We reached the harbor by 1045, just on time to catch the 1100 am ferry. The ferry ride was fabulous - despite the damp weather, we went onto the open upper deck and took in the spectacular views of the Loch and the surrounding hills.

Some Views of Loch Ness
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There was a running commentary providing the history of the Loch - Loch Ness forms part of what is called the Great Glen (Glen means valley), and was formed by retreating icebergs at the end of the last Ice Age. It is the second largest lake by surface area in the UK (after Loch Lomond) but is as much as 750 feet deep. Due to its great depth, it holds an enormous volume of water, and holds the possibility of having secrets such as the Loch Ness monster or Nessie. The Loch has been extensively surveyed thru sonar, and no trace of Nessie has been found - however, as the Guide on our boat said, Loch Ness occupies a sufficient volume to hide every human being on earth - so who knows.

The tour also gave us a view of Urquhart Castle, an ancient Scottish stronghold that was destroyed by British government troops during the Jacobite revolt in the 17th or 18th century. (The Jacobites were followers of James Stuart, who attempted to restore the Catholic Stuart dynasty to the throne of Britain).

Urquhart Castle
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After a nice one hour cruise, we returned to the shore, where we had lunch and also picked up some souvenirs including a Nessie toy for our son. We debated whether to go and tour Urquhart Castle, but decided to skip that. After that, we drove down the Loch till Drumnadrochit, where the Loch Ness Centre is located. We had originally planned to stop there, but instead decided to proceed to Glen Affric, a nature reserve about 15 miles away.

The road to Glen Affric was narrower, and surrounded by thick forests. At one of the stops we made on the way to admire the scenary, we met an old (perhaps mid 60s) British lady hiking by, who told us that she had been coming to the Highlands for the last 30 yrs to walk each June, leaving her husband behind in London.

At any rate, we gave her a lift, and she told us about a waterfall that we could go and see called Dog Falls, on the way to Glen Affric. After a while, we turned off the main road, and headed to Glen Affric on a narrow road through the forest with two way traffic. Since most parts of the road are too narrow, specific passing areas are designated and widened every 200mtrs or so, and people stop and reverse if needed to allow others to pass safely. It really amazed me that they take such care to build frequent designated passing zones on even country roads with no traffic other than that of hikers.

We soon reached the Dog Falls parking area, where we dropped the lady off, and parked to take in the scenery. There were a number of trails marked out in the forest, including a 400 yard one leading to Dog Falls. We decided to hike down that path, based on advice from the lady, despite a nagging drizzle.

The Merc, parked near Dog Falls (I think)
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the Road to Glen Affric
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Vistas near Dog Falls
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So we set out in the rain, thru a narrow path surrounded by woods, above rapids in a small river, looking for Dog Falls. Our two and half year old was extremely enthusiastic about the hike - and was only disappointed he could not see wild animals. The hike was not difficult, but not a walk in the park by any stretch of imagination - it involved avoiding muddy sections, climbing over fairly high rocks etc.

After about 15 minutes, we reached a place where the path rose, crossed the road and continued to climb in to the forest - around the same place, there were a number of small waterfalls. This section was steeper and so we decided that discretion is the better part of valor, and turned back. I am not sure if the small waterfalls we saw were the much wonted Dog Falls, or if there was something more substantial, which could be seen from higher up the path. Nevertheless, it was great fun - and our son's love of the outdoors, and his ability and willingness to walk with us on a narrow path thru the woods in cold and wet conditions came as a surprise to us.

Walking through the woods
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With the weather being cold and dull, we didn’t realize that it was well past lunch time and suddenly all of us started feeling hungry. It was time to open our picnic lunch for the second round of tomato cheese sandwich, this time with mayonnaise (sachets being picked from various coffee shops).

We then set out for the Glen Affric parking lot - with the road taking us above still more Lochs. The parking lot had a number of cars in it - obviously various people had set out on short or long treks along the various trails marked there. From the lot itself, we could see very interesting countryside. But our son had fallen asleep, and hence we did not venture further, but instead headed back toward Drumnadrochit.


Glen Affric
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When we reached Drumnadrochit, our son was still asleep - hence, we decided to not see the Loch Ness Centre and to push that off by 2 days, when we anticipated we would have some free time. (Wrongly as it turned out, but that is another story).


We reached Bunchrew, spent some time in the beautiful lobby with a fire place, and then turned in relatively early, as we had planned an extremely long drive for the following day.

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Old 4th December 2011, 01:57   #22
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Hayek,

Gives a warm glow reading your log, brings back lots of memories our our drive. We also stopped on the Loc Ness Centre to see the show, lots of efforts to track the ghost of Nessie.

I am sure you'd have loved the drive to the waterfall and Glen Affric, some roads we drove near Dunnets Head (actual north end of UK) were hardly 8 feets with areas to tuck in for passing; loved the way they acknowledged with a salute if you give side on those sections.

We drove on straight form Drumnadrochit on A82 towards Skye Island on A887 while you must have turned right to Glen Affric. A82 is a one of the handful 'black flag' roads of UK, considered dangerous, but nothing near dangerous as our highways Posting a link to this information which I picked up for the UK drive, hope you don't mind:

A82 road - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Waiting for your next load on long drive and pictures. Keep them coming.

--Ramky
======

Last edited by ramkya1 : 4th December 2011 at 01:59.
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Old 5th December 2011, 10:08   #23
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Dear Hayek,

Reading every word of your post as will be visiting UK in May '12 (tickets booked)-Though I have been driving for the past 37 years -is it difficult driving in UK/Europe-Austria to be more precise?
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Old 5th December 2011, 11:18   #24
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Dear Hayek,

Reading every word of your post as will be visiting UK in May '12 (tickets booked)-Though I have been driving for the past 37 years -is it difficult driving in UK/Europe-Austria to be more precise?
I found diving in UK was more easier than India, Right Hand Drive, more disciplined, with a good GPS you can get anywhere you want. I did not try Europe as it's Left Hand and round turns would be difficult for one who is not experienced to change from left-right countries. No idea of Austria, is it way too different?

--Ramky
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Old 5th December 2011, 11:25   #25
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Dear Ramkya,

Just reading your trip (2009)-poring over each word and making notes-just a question-car hire 400 pounds for 10 days??
Thinking of driving from London to Edinburgh and next day to Loch Ness-wife wants to see it!!!
Thank you for the prompt reply
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Old 5th December 2011, 12:06   #26
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Dear Ramkya,

Just reading your trip (2009)-poring over each word and making notes-just a question-car hire 400 pounds for 10 days??
Thinking of driving from London to Edinburgh and next day to Loch Ness-wife wants to see it!!!
Thank you for the prompt reply
I have bought an AA map of UK for the purpose which is very good, in case you want any sections photographed and mailed to your private mail, I can do that, let me know. Alternatively, google maps are equally good, I compared it with AA maps, all the exits and service areas are updated and well marked on Google, a print out of that would be equally good.

I think it cost under 400 for us as it was a one way drop, we picked up from Inverness and dropped at Carydon, London and we took the '0' liability insurance which is expensive. You need to go through the 'Excess' clause of the insurance carefully, they are known to slap the excess clause even for minor scratches and dents.

--Ramky
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Old 5th December 2011, 22:28   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Judemayne
Dear Hayek,

Reading every word of your post as will be visiting UK in May '12 (tickets booked)-Though I have been driving for the past 37 years -is it difficult driving in UK/Europe-Austria to be more precise?
As Ramky said, driving in the UK is a breeze. I also drove on the wrong (viz right) side of the road during my trip to the US this year, and adjusting was not a problem (at least in an automatic). The only challenge in Austria would be following the German road signs, in my opinion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramkya1

I have bought an AA map of UK for the purpose which is very good.... we took the '0' liability insurance which is expensive. You need to go through the 'Excess' clause of the insurance carefully, they are known to slap the excess clause even for minor scratches and dents.
======
The AA map is a very good buy, and is not very expensive either. Also fully agree on the importance of the 0 liability insurance - the scratches, as defined by the rental agency, are impossible for ordinary human beings to spot. I will describe how the zero liability saved me later in this thread.

On maps, using GPS makes sense. But if you are renting for more than 5-6 days, and have relatives / friends in the UK, try picking up a GPS device on Amazon, as that usually works out cheaper than renting.
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Old 6th December 2011, 13:29   #28
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Default Re: Hayek's Road Trips : England, Wales and Scotland

Dear Hayek,

Thank you for your advice-awaiting your posts to pick up pointers which will help me-tickets are booked need to follow up on the hotels/place to stay-got acquaintances there but will not be contacting -just want to do it ourselves.
Ramkya and you have been most helpful.

Regards
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Old 18th December 2011, 11:01   #29
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Hayek,

We drove on straight form Drumnadrochit on A82 towards Skye Island on A887 while you must have turned right to Glen Affric.
======
Ramky, we drove to Skye as well - the relevant post follows

The Road to Skye

While in Bristol, my wife's cousin had raved about the fabulous beauty of Skye, an island located off the west coast of Northern Scotland (the opposite end of the highlands from Inverness which is on the East coast).

The road from Inverness to Skye would go along Loch Ness for about 15 miles beyond Drumnadrochit, and then turn off, running along various other Lochs, to a town called Kyle of Lochalsh, the last pt of mainland Scotland. The journey to Kyle of Lochalsh was about 95 miles each way.


The Route to Skye (Source: Google Maps)

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Initially, I was skeptical about driving 200 miles plus on a single day. However, I recalled reading about how this was considered to be one of the best drives in Britain, which tempted me to go for it. Driving the C class on the way to Inverness decided it for me - and we decided to make an early start and head to Skye. Two ancillary factors helped take this decision: a) the weather forecast, which predicted a clear day over Skye; and b) the belief that we could take it easy on the following day before heading back to Edinburgh.

While we aimed to start very early for Skye, (as usual) it was past 9 by the time we actually got going. Since the journey was the destination in this case, we took time out to admire the scenic beauty at various points along Loch Ness. Some of the best views were shortly after Drumnadrochit, close to Urquhart Castle. Nevertheless, we made pretty good time till Invermoriston, where we turned off onto the Road to Skye.



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Beautiful Yellow Flowers on the Way

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The road from Invermoriston towards the Kyle of Localsh got prettier by the mile, with a Loch (Loch Cluanie) on the left, and a number of peaks on the right. While it had been cloudy at Inverness, the sun started to peep out of the clouds when we reached Invermoriston, and the play of light on the hills and Lochs was spectacular.

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The road was hilly, and twisty, moving quickly from driving by a Loch to perhaps hundred feet above it. As we continued on, I grew more confident that the Merc would do what I wanted it to do, and the most challenging aspect was not breaching the speed limit (60 mph on single carriageway sections) while driving. Nevertheless, we did take a number of breaks at various view pts, and so progress was quite slow. Around 1230, as we were driving along a Loch (Loch Duich), from atop a hill, a beautiful Lochside (for want of a better word) castle came into view, the Eilean Donan castle.

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We had been told about the castle, and how it was a must see. It is a located at the junction of three Lochs, where the Loch we had been driving along (Loch Duich), and another one (Loch Long) flow into Loch Alsh (which separates Skye from the mainland). We pulled into the parking lot of the castle, with just a hint of grey left in the air, at about 1230.

We found that the castle as it stands today is not very old - it was rebuilt in the early part of the 20th century, but to medieval plans. The site, on an island just off the mainland, however is a very old one - it has been inhabited since the stone age, and the first castle built there was put up in the 5th century. A 12th century castle there, which was the base of a major Scottish highland clan which took the Jacobite side, was razed to ground around the same time as the destruction of Urquhart. However unlike Urquhart which still lies in ruins, Eilean Donan was painstakingly restored by a Scottish army officer (it was unclear to me if he was a member of the clan that originally owned it) in the early part of the 20th century. After being used as family home till the 1980s, it was transferred to a trust which now gives tourists a glimpse of a medieval Scottish lifestyle.

More than the displays, the best thing about the castle is probably the view - it looks out over a range of hills and the Loch Alsh to Skye and other islands of the Hebrides beyond. We spent over an hour at Eilean Donan and a further 45 minutes at lunch - and set off around 230 towards Kyle.


Some Views from Eilean Donan


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From Eilean Donan on, the drive was even more spectacular - a little after Eilean Donan, we caught our first glance of the Skye bridge, and at a crest of the road just before Kyle, we caught what must be one of the best sea views in the world.

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Kyle of Localsh is a bit of a one horse town, mainly used by tourists to tank up on the way to Skye. The Skye bridge is rather short, but a high arc bridge. While the architectural merits of the bridge are limited, it does provide spectacular views - though we did not stop to enjoy the same (as it would have meant parking 500 mtrs before or after the bridge and then walking). We decided to head into Skye upto Portree, the biggest town on the Island.

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The landscape at Skye was spectacular too… unlike the Great Glen and other parts of Scotland we had seen so far, it was not green, but comprised of high, dry peaks, which looked to us like pictures we had seen of Ladakh (though the peaks were obviously tiny runts compared to those in Ladakh).

Some Views in Skye
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A House in Skye
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The road to Portree was winding, perched on cliffs high above the sea. In the distance, we could see various rugged peaks, both on Skye and on neighbouring islands. At one point, there was a spectacular curve along the sea, with the cliffs we were driving on forming more than a semi-circle around the sea. I am acutely conscious that my attempts to describe the beauty of the road to Skye and of Skye itself are pitifully inadequate. It is something that needs to be experienced.

We did take a number of photos on the way, but we don’t think any of them adequately captured what our eyes could see.

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At 430, we reached a point about 4 miles from Portree, where there was an exhibition centre with a play area for kids. Our son had fun playing for a while, though our stop necessarily had to be brief, as the parking lot had stark notices that it would be closed at 5 PM.

Thereafter, instead of continuing to Portree, we decided to turn around. My initial plan was to take an alternate route back to Inverness, travelling north to a village called Achnasheen, and then heading back to Inverness. But given the late hour, we decided to head straight back via the main road.

While our journey to Skye had taken 7 and a half hours (admittedly including a two hour halt at Eilean Donan) to cover 120 miles, the return trip was covered in about 2.5 hours.

My wife and kid were tired and rested in the back, while I had a good time, maintaining a steady high speed. The interesting thing was that the return journey offered an entirely new perspective to the route, as the hills we could see were different from those we had seen while going to Skye.

We reached the hotel before 8, but decided to skip the hotel dinner (we were not able to enjoy the award winning chef’s food any more) and instead eat the Aashirvaad Channa Masala and Dal Bukhara we had carried with us. The relish with which we wolfed down the food surprised us.

At this point, we were under the impression that the next day would be a relaxed one spent at Inverness, before another long journey to Edinburgh on the day after. But as we discussed our plans, we suddenly realized that something was not adding up. And then the realization dawned that the next day was not going to be a relaxed day but was the day when we needed to drive to Edinburgh.

We had booked to stay at Bunchrew for 3 nights. Somehow, while we were planning the Scotland leg of our trip, I assumed this meant we would also have three days there - without realizing that the first day had been spent driving to Bunchrew, and the last would need to be spent driving back, and hence we had already used up both days we had at Bunchrew. Fortunately, we were more or less packed for at least a car journey. For a brief while, I toyed with the idea of changing our plans and taking the direct route back to Edinburgh (which would have been a 160 mile trip).

But the temptation of seeing the rest of the Scottish highlands proved too great, and we decided to make an early start and head back to Edinburgh via Fort William, Glen Coe and Loch Lomond - a journey that would take us almost into Glasgow before heading for Edinburgh and would involve travel of 250 miles.
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Old 18th December 2011, 16:50   #30
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Arrow Re: Hayek's Road Trips : England, Wales and Scotland

WoW!! Thanks for the lovely pictures and a great read. Views from Eilean Donan are gret with Skye bridge. Made me so happy to see the same road we drove to Portee. We wanted to touch the western most point Dunvegan but it was getting late for a U turn back to Inverness. I would consider the section starting from A887, entry into 87 till the bridge as one of the most beautiful I've driven.

We took a secondary road on the way back which was recommended by our hosts in Inverness, very narrow roads for 20 kms hardly 8 feet, you have to park on the siding points for others to pass. A 890 thorugh Attadale, Achnastieen, about 70 KMs following a railway track (this rail ride is also listed as one of the top 10 in UK), this was also one of the best rides ever for us in terms of natural beauty. From Attadale for 50 KM's is a free speed zone, low traffic, most people were ripping and tested my steed till 150kmph. The road joins to A 835 at Garve to Inverness.

Hoping to see more.

--Ramky
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Last edited by ramkya1 : 18th December 2011 at 16:52.
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