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Old 4th November 2019, 01:14   #1
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Default The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

My wife and I almost exclusively do road trips wherever we go. Considering our affinity for road trips, it was no wonder that Scotland's North Coastal 500 (Abbreviated NC-500) came up for discussion. The same weekend we thought of doing the trip, we booked the flight tickets. That is generally how we plan our trips. We first book the tickets and then figure out the day to day details based on our dates. Here is a day by day recap of our trip with many details which you might or might not like reading. There were also a couple of extra legs of the trip in the Lake District of England and a half a day in London since that was our point of entry into the UK. For those who despair of the details, you can scroll down to the pics which are the most important part of any travelogue.


DAY 1, 29th May: The Emirates flight landed at 7 AM at Heathrow. We were right on time but it took about half an hour to deplane. The immigration lines were enormous but luckily they were very efficient and we got done with immigration by about 8.15 AM. We reached the Europcar rental via their courtesy bus right outside the exit. The lines were enormous and it took the better part of an hour to get the formalities over with.

We finally snagged a Petrol Opel Astra. It was a peppy car that didn't give us anything to complain about. This was a huge driving day. We drove 500 kms
and reached Glasgow around 7.30 PM and checked into our airbnb.

DAY 2, 30th May: We were up and out of the house at 7.30 AM. Our first destination was the 3 loch drive which was about 30 miles away from Glasgow. There was a continuous drizzle all through but the scenery was much improved from the previous day as we were now in Scotland proper. It took us an hour to get to the beginning of 3 loch drive. There was nobody around at the entrance but we had to pay 2 pounds at an automated payment booth. The drive started off at the top of a hill and went downhill from there. It was a wooded area with nice views. Soon, we came across the first lake and the scenery improved extraordinarily. The leaves were all yellow and a bright green and the combination of the lake and the trees made for a great view. The 3rd lake, lake Achray was the biggest and the prettiest of the three. The water was so clear and reflected the trees on the shore like a mirror and made for some pretty pictures. We stopped at quite a few places for pics and completed the drive in over an hour. It was around 10 AM by the time we were done. We started for our next destination, Loch Lomond. On our way, we encountered road work and they made us turn in the opposite direction to where we were going. Meanwhile, the greatest cell service since the invention of the cell phone wouldnít give even a single bar of signal. So, we basically followed the road in the exact opposite direction and kept going in the blind hope that we would get a signal to reroute. EE finally relented and gave us a bar of signal to set out map heading and a 50 minute journey took us double the time. For all the effort, Loch Lomond turned out to be lacklustre, or should I say ĎLochílustre. After walking around on the shores of Lomond, we set off for our next stop, which was Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint. The drives by now had become much better in terms of natural beauty, but the weather just wouldnít relent. Even so, we stopped at the viewpoint for a few minutes and enjoyed the panorama and were on our way. The next big attraction for the day was Glen Coe and the Glen Etive area. On the way, we made a brief stop at the Inveraray castle which was basically a rest stop followed by an ice cream.

It was around 3 PM by the time we reached the Glen Coe valley. This area was thus far the most beautiful part of Scotland. The mountains here had a lot more character and the swirling mists and rain provided a great atmosphere. We went down a narrow road into the Glen Etive valley with mountains on both sides and petite waterfalls falling off the mountain sides. We followed the coordinates for where the Skyfall shots in Scotland were filmed and it was indeed a breathtaking area. For all the rants online about how the movie was driving loads of tourists to this road, we didnít find a single soul there except us. We stopped at various points on the road to take in the views, click a few pics.

We got back to the Glen Coe main road and drove on to Bien Doran which was the most impressive mountain we had seen thus far in Scotland. After a few pics there, we were on to our final destination of the day, Steall falls.

We reached Steall falls around 5.30 PM. The hike to the falls was an hour each way. The hike was pretty easy going with a well marked path. There were a few people on this hike. The rain hadnít relented and we were the only idiots carrying an Umbrella which was being rendered useless by the wind. The falls themselves have become very popular since they feature in the Harry Potter movies. For us though, after seeing waterfalls in Iceland, Norway and Austria this waterfall was less impressive than it might have been had we never been to those other countries. After we got a good view of the waterfall, we decided to return to the parking instead of spending another 15 mns completing the hike to the base of the waterfall. It was around 6.45 by the time we got to the parking. After a tiring day, the Airbnb we booked at Caol was only a 15-20 minute drive from Steall falls. We reached the Airbnb without much trouble and it was a nice little cottage close to a lake. The room was quite cozy and the old couple who were our hosts were quite welcoming. We settled in for the night after a day well spent.

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The 3 loch drive had some lovely views

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Reflection!

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The Glen Coe are near where the Bond movie Skyfall was shot

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The rolling hills of Scotland

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Another one!

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The Glen Coe!
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:28   #2
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Day 3, 31st May: We left the accommodation at 7.30 AM and our first point of interest was the Glenfinnan viaduct. This was something we were really looking forward to as it was one of the most iconic images from the Harry Potter movies. And this time, the place from the HP movies didnít disappoint at all. The viaduct was massive and we hiked for 20 mns up the side of the hill next to the viaduct to get to a height good enough to get a panoramic view of the viaduct. The views of the Viaduct were just magnificent. We spent far more time here than we anticipated because of how impressive the place was. After an hour we made our way back to the parking.

The next stop for the day was the Eilean Donan castle. We got here by 11 AM. This was probably one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. The view from the parking didnít justify the popularity of the castle. To us, it just seemed like a dilapidated castle, just a little less so than the other castles we had seen up till then. We did go up a winding road to get another top view of the castle and this time the castle did look more impressive than it did up close.

We were then on to what was hyped as the highlight of the whole of Scotland, the Isle of Skye. For all the hype the entry to the Isle of Skye from the bridge was quite ordinary. The lashing rain and the fairly meh entry to the Isle did dampen our spirits a bit. We made our way to the first stop of the day, the hike to the Old man of Storr.

The scenery did improve a lot as we got to the Old man of Storr as the the drive was along the coast for the most part. We parked at the quite busy parking at the base of the old man of Storr by which time the wind and rain were pounding us from all directions. With our wafer thin, non-waterproof jackets, we didnít realise how unprepared we were. When we got out of the car, an American couple who had just returned from the hike, got on look at us and told us point blank that we wouldnít make it to the top with our jackets. If it had not been for their sensible advice, we would have embarked on the trek stupidly unprepared. We decided to take his advice and head to Portree, one of the big towns in the Isle and buy a couple of proper jackets for the weather here.

We found an outdoor equipment store in the busy town centre, struggled for parking, but finally managed to buy 2 identical blue jackets for 40 pounds each. They were the cheapest jackets in the whole store but were well worth price. We would be thankful to the American couple who gave us the sensible piece of advice for the rest of the trip.

We made our way back to the old man of Storr and this time we were prepared to go and meet him. We started the trek in right earnest but the wind and the rain started gnawing at our will power. We kept at it for an hour as more and more clouds covered the area and we could barely see the path in front of us. The people who were on their way down told us they could actually not see the old man of Storr formation even standing right in front of it. That is when we realised that it was a foolís errand to continue up and returned to the parking. 2 hours of hiking for nothing basically.

Back to the safety and warmth of the car, we got on to our next attraction, the Kilt rock waterfall. The drive took about half an hour and the weather started improving. The drive was along the coast which was pretty amazing for the most part. When we finally reached the Mealt falls viewpoint at Kilt Rock, all our dampened enthusiasm swelled back up. This was just an amazing sight with the waterfall falling a couple of hundred meters into the ocean from the moss covered sea cliffs. We couldnít get enough of the waterfall and the rugged coast line from this viewpoint.

With this, we headed out to our Airbnb booked in the village of Uig. On our way to Uig we had to turn into a narrow road after the village of Staffin. This road, unknown to us was the road that leads to the Quiraing hike. We were going to do the hike the next day anyhow but we got an opportunity to see the massive volcanic formations of Quiraing this day as an added bonus after our disappointment at Storr. We stopped at various places on the road to get our fill of the place and take some pics.

Finally, we started for Uig. The drive to Uig went down the hill after Quiraing with great views of the coast. We turned into the village finally and the cottage was located right by the sea. By this time, the sun was out a little and the golden rays of the setting sun gave the place an ethereal glow. It was a breathtaking sight to behold. We checked into the airbnb, unpacked, and immediately set out for a little walk by the house towards the ocean. The house was completely surrounded by farmland with sheep grazing everywhere. The biting cold though made us go back in soon and we settled in for a good nightís sleep.

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The Harry Potter viaduct!

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some breathtaking Lochs along the way

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The Eilean Donan castle.

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Isle Of Skye

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The Mealt falls

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Another one!

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Quiraing

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Some more Quiraing!

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Unbelievable road to drive on

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The backyard of our airbnb in Uig!
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:41   #3
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Day 4 (1st June): Sorcha, our bnb host left us a trolley laden with breakfast a little after 7 in the morning and it looked delicious. There was lots of Muesli, jams, freshly toasted bread, butter, cheese, some apples and kiwis, milk and coffee. It was amazing. We almost emptied the breakfast cart and got ready to do the Quiraing hike. We left the bnb with our stomachs bursting and soon reached the Quiraing parking. It was slightly after 8, and there were only a couple of cars there. The weather was cooperating so far though it was pretty cloudy and this would not turn out like our disastrous trek to the Old Man of Storr the previous day. The breakfast combined with the sight of the Quiraing formations energised us. We found the trail and started the hike with a lot of vigour. Within 5 minutes of the hike starting we totally understood all the hype that Skye got the world over. The rock formations and the greenery along with the low hanging clouds gave the area an ethereal feeling like a scene from the Lord of the Rings. The hike was relatively easy for the first 20-30 minutes or so before we came to a place where there was a small waterfall which we had to cross very carefully by taking the support of the rocks surrounding the waterfall. Beyond that the trail eased out again. There were barely a few other people out there apart from us and the only other company we had was the sheep grazing heartily on the sumptuous grass covering every inch of the area.

As we went on, we reached an area with troll like formations with a narrow entrance. It felt like we were carrying the one ring to Mount Doom. The Quiraing is actually a 2 hour round trip hike, but after an hour, the weather started coming in and it started drizzling. At this point we could also see the coast since we had gained a bit of elevation. The views of the coast were breathtaking and we decided that it was probably a good idea to turn back here. It turned out to be a good idea too as very soon the drizzle became a constant steady rain and intensity kept going up by the minute. We reached the car park in another hour and we were taken aback to see the car park overflowing. We had managed to avoid the crowds and the also got the better of the weather. It was a half past 10 and the narrow Quiraing road was filled with cars waiting to find a spot to park. We quickly moved out from the area and drove on to our next destination, which was Brotherís point.

It took us close to an hour to get to Brotherís point coastal walk. In the hour it took us, the weather went from drizzling to pouring rain to the sun coming out. As they say about Scotland, if you donít like the weather, wait 5 minutes. We found parking close to the Brotherís point area and went in search of the start of the trail. The start was through a private house. As is usual with most areas in Scotland, both the house and the trail seemed totally deserted. The trail sloped down from the start point. The wet weather meant that the trail was slushy and we walked down the slope gingerly. Soon, we were treated to spectacular views of the ocean and the jagged cliff edges and the difficulty of the walk was forgotten while we took in the views. The highlight of the whole trail was the distant view of the spectacular kilt rock waterfall. We also saw a seal sun bathing in the rocks beneath us. We clicked a few pics at various points and decided to return after an hour of exploring the area. The only other people we met on the trail were a German couple whose pics we clicked and they did the same for us.

It was half past 1 by the time we finished the trail and got back to the car. Now, we would head to the famous Neist point lighthouse, which was in one of the most spectacular coastal areas in Skye. The drive was about 60 kms, but took the better part of two hours because of the narrow, undulating coastal roads. The Neist point is pretty famous as we saw a million instagram pics during our trip research. As expected, there were quite a few cars at the starting point of the trail. There was a steep descent to the lighthouse, but thankfully it was all mostly steps cut into rock, with a railing on the side. The descent was quick and easy, but we could well imagine the tough time we would have climbing back up. The lighthouse itself was nice, but a bit dilapidated. The views from the lighthouse however, were simply breathtaking! These were even better than the views from Brotherís Point. There were hills dotting the landscape to the left, and the open sea in torrid weather all around. There was a path going off to the left of the lighthouse, leading to an old, unused pier. The view from there was spectacular as well, as the walkway basically jutted into the sea. We spent around 45 minutes and then started trudging back uphill. It was nearly 6 by the time we were done with Neist Point and got back to the car. We had a longish drive ahead of us, as our accommodation was in Sconser, which was around 50-60 km away. We reached the place by 7.30. We followed the directions given by our host Ann, found the place and our hostís husband John received us. John was a Scotsman to the core and we enjoyed a nice chat with him about Scotland and its relationship with the UK. He was a little under the weather and we left him to have his dinner and rest up. He mentioned that they had rabbits in the house and we discovered them waiting to greet us when we entered our room. They were very cute but I am not a big fan of animals. I escorted them out of the room and kept the door firmly shut so they wouldnít find their way back in. Before I forget, this was one of the most amazing houses we had ever seen. It was opposite a huge Loch and the drawing room had spectacular view of the Loch through the enormous French windows. The kitchen was almost as big as our apartment back home. These are the times when we are so envious of the people who are born in first world and live in houses like these. In India, you would have to be rolling in money to afford something like the house we were in. We had a leisurely dinner of noodles and rajma in the kitchen while reading our respective novels. We called it a night after what was a gruelling day for us with 3 hikes.

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A bombardment of Quiraing pics!

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Lord of the Rings!

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These look like they can get up and start walking in this magical land!

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Brother's point

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Another one of Brother's point

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Neist point

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Some forbidding formations!

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Another of Neist point!

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The last one for the day!
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:46   #4
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Day 5 (2nd June): With the good weather of the previous day, we had finished almost all the must see attractions of Skye. The only one remaining was the Fairly Pools. After a leisurely breakfast, we were ready for the day. We left without waking our host. We had heard that the fairy pools were a little over hyped but then we had enough time on our hands and figured we wouldnít lose anything by giving the pools a try. The weather however got back to being very rainy. We braved it and got to the pools which are also a very popular Insta location. As expected we saw quite a crowd at the parking (crowd is a relative term here). We paid 5 pounds for the parking and walked the trail to the first pool. It was a decent looking pool but we didnít get the hype surrounding the area. With the rain now pouring down, we decided to skip the rest of the pools and got back quickly.

With Skye done, we would now move on to the mainland and the NC-500 drive. Our itinerary was quite light this day. The plan was to drive the Belach Na Ba pass, known as the most hair raising drive in Scotland, and following the coastal drives along Apple Cross.

We stopped to restock some snacks and drinks at the last gas station just before the bridge out of Skye. The weather was now much better though still predominantly cloudy. The drive till we hit the Belach na Ba pass was pleasant if unspectacular. As soon as we started climbing up the pass though, the views improved drastically. We climbed up the pass along a mammoth Loch. As we went higher, we couldnít but help stopping every kilometre or so to look back down and take some pics. The road was quite narrow with passing lanes every few hundred metres. The online reviews we read all made the Belach Na Ba as this scary narrow road which only professional drivers should attempt. Obviously, these first world drivers have never driven in Bangalore. The drive was a breeze for us and the views were pretty spectacular. We made it to the other side of the pass in about 40 minutes despite all the stops for pics. By the time we made it past the pass, the weather too improved significantly. The sun was peeking out from time to time and improved the colour of the sea tremendously. We got to Applecross, which was a quaint little seaside village and kept following the coast. We stopped from time to time at various viewpoints. It was a leisurely drive with no particular destination in sight. We also visited Loch Torridon which was a nice little Loch. With no other particular destination in mind, we kept driving for a couple of hours taking in the views, before we called it a day. We headed back once more over the Belach Na Ba and got to our Airbnb. Our host Micheal was a delight to talk to. He was an avid traveller and had travelled to India, Brazil and a lot of other offbeat destinations across the world. He showed us his pics of the Amazon forests where he encountered a Puma and a Cheetah in the wild. We had a great time here and the room even had a TV where I could catch some of the French open action as well.
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Fairy Pools!

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The Belach na ba pass!

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Some great views here!

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Apple cross!

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Another one near Apple cross on the NC-500!
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:57   #5
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Day 6 (3rd June): We had a hearty breakfast of freshly baked bread from Micheal’s oven and there was a Scottish couple who were in the other room of his bnb with who we chatted for a while before saying our goodbyes. This was the day when we would get from Applecross to Lochinver which was not too far away in terms of distance, but from now on, most of the NC-500 would mainly be single lane roads with passing lanes for the traffic. On our itinerary this day was the Glen Docherty viewpoint, the Loch Maree, the Corrishalloch gorge and the Clashnessie waterfall. With the driving being slow and the various pitstops on our way, it was going to be a long day.

The Glen Docherty viewpoint was on the way and we just spent a few minutes there. It was nice but we didn’t see any point to spending more than a few minutes. The Loch Maree on the other hand was quite spectacular. The parking lot near the Loch had some info written as to how this was one of Queen Elizabeth’s favourite lakes in Scotland and we could really see why. We sat at the lake shore for a while and took in the views and some pics. The next stop on the NC-500 was the Corrishalloch gorge. It was a kilometre hike from the parking. We did it quite quickly. It was an impressive gorge but we were out quite quickly after a few pics.

The Clashnessie waterfall was next. We got to what the maps told us was the starting point for the hike but we did not find any trails marked for the waterfall. We took a guess as to which way the waterfall was and started walking. After half a kilometre of walking we came upon a sign to the waterfall. It was about a 20 minute hike to the waterfall. The hike was through wetland and a small brook. We ended up with wet shoes but the waterfall was very pretty indeed. This more than made up for the wet shoes. This was the end of our day and the next stop was our bnb in Lochinver further north. We got to the bnb which was not the greatest but we didn’t really mind after a long and tiring day. This was the only regular B&B we had booked as airbnb did not have any listings in this area. However our host was extremely helpful and friendly and she even did our laundry for us.

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Glen Doherty viewpoint!

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Loch Maree

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somewhere near the village of Gairloch!

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Another one near Gairloch!

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Loch Maree again!

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Some ruins on the way near Ullapool!

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The Clashnessie waterfall!

Last edited by aah78 : 12th November 2019 at 21:51. Reason: Picture inserted in-line.
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:12   #6
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Day 7 (4th June): The breakfast too was spectacular as we got to taste potato scones for breakfast. Its a Scottish version of the aloo paratha and we really liked it. The Scots seem to just outdo each other with their breakfast spreads. Everywhere we had breakfast, we mostly skipped lunch because of how much we stuffed ourselves at breakfast. On this day, we would finally get to North Scotland. However, we had one more detour before we embarked North. It was the Stoer lighthouse. The previous evening after Clashnessie, we were tired and debated whether we should do the Stoer lighthouse this morning. After the great breakfast, we were full of beans and decided to give it a go. Thank goodness for that that. The Stoer lighthouse was one of the most spectacular coastal areas we had seen. There was not a soul in sight. We had the whole lighthouse and the surrounding coastal cliffs to ourselves. We took a few pics, walked around and found that the lighthouse had a couple of rooms which people can actually rent out and stay at. We regretted not knowing this beforehand. It would have been a spectacular place to spend a night. At least we got to see the place. As we left Stoer and headed up North, the scenery was slowly getting wilder and better as we continued on the NC-500. The weather was our friend this day and the sun coming out really cheered us up. There was nothing on our itinerary till we got up to the North and reached the famous Durness beach. However we saw plenty of quaint seaside villages on our way. One such village was the Gairloch village. At this point there was a B road, which went off the NC-500 and into a village. We decided on the spur of the moment to take it. It was an amazing drive. The road wound up and down along the sea and provided some spectacular views. We followed the road for a few miles before heading back to the NC-500. By around 1 PM we reached Durness beach. It was one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Scotland. We stopped at various viewpoints along the beach and feasted on the views. After a while, we got going because we needed to reach Thurso, which was almost at the North east corner of Scotland. The scenic drives meant that we did not feel the stress of the long drives. By around 4 PM we reached Thurso. But before we headed to our airbnb for the night, we had one more stop to make. It was the Duncansby stacks. It was one of the highlights of our trip. There were two huge stacks along with a smaller third stack that were home to thousands of birds. It was an hourís walk to the Stacks and back but it was totally worth the effort. None of our pics did justice to the enormity and majesty of the stacks. Done with Stacks and our itinerary for the day, we headed to Thurso to our airbnb for the night.

Now, this airbnb requires an entire paragraph by itself. It was on a piece of land opposite the sea and the house was one of the most beautifully constructed buildings I had ever seen. We could not believe our luck. Our hosts were so welcoming. They were a warm couple who had done so many things in their life. The husband was a Scotsman who had worked on Australian offshore rigs. The wife was a American with Israeli heritage. They had lived in so many different countries and done so many different things with their lives before deciding to settle down in this beautiful area of Scotland. We had an engaging chat with them about everything under the sun before we called it a night.

From our room in the house, the French window looked out to the backyard beyond which was one of the most amazingly colourful sunsets I had seen in my life. The backyard had a few sheep grazing and it was the most idyllic setting we had ever been in.

We watched the sun go down and the skies were bursting with purple and pink all over. With that we called it a night.

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The Stoer lighthouse area!

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Jagged rocks lining the shore!

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The lighthouse!

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The sea was choppy and spectacular this day

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A bridge somewhere on the way

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A beach near the Stoer lighthouse

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Durness beach!

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Another one of Durness

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A bit further down!

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The Duncansby stacks!

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A few more

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Again!

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Our airbnb for the night!

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The backyard!

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Sunset pics from the comfort of the bed

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Old 4th November 2019, 02:23   #7
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Day 8 (5th June): Orkney Islands are generally not on peopleís itinerary when they do Scotland holidays and I donít understand why that is the case. Some of the best scenery in Scotland is contained in Orkney and it is not even that difficult to get to. Its an hour and a halfís ferry ride from Thurso or Gillís bay on the Northern tip of Scotland. It has fantastic roads, great scenery and great access. We had done good research about Orkney and this was the day we would crossover on the ferry to Orkney with our car and drive around the islands the whole day. We said our goodbyes to our hosts and got on the 8 AM Northlinks ferry which dropped us off at Stromness terminal by 9.30 AM. Our return ferry was at around 5 PM. So we had about 6-7 hours on the island. The island was actually one of the most populated areas we had seen in Scotland. The main points of interest for us were the Yesnaby cliffs and the Churchill barriers and of course the coastal drive around the island.

The Yesnaby cliffs were easily the biggest highlight of our Scotland trip for us. The cliffs are some of the craziest areas we had ever seen. Jagged rocks jutting out of the sea and the sea bashing against these rocks forming small waterfalls over them and the wind howling all the time made this an out of the world experience. We spent a good couple of hours walking along the cliffs. When it was finally time to depart, we were so sad that we had only spent a short time at the cliffs.

One of the other interesting points about the Orkney islands were the ubiquitous windmills. They were everywhere and enhanced the beauty of the surroundings with their presence. The coastal waters were a bright shimmering blue everywhere we went and we had a whale of a time on the island before we got back to our ferry terminal to get back to the mainland.

By 6 PM we were back on the Scottish mainland and headed to our airbnb in Moleside which was just a 20 minute drive from the Gillsbay ferry terminal. It was another spectacular house right opposite the ocean that we had picked for our stay. The hosts were a retired couple who moved to Scotland from London after 30 years in London. We made ourselves comfortable and when we looked out it was 7 PM but still extremely sunny and bright outside. This was the best weather day we had in Scotland. We decided not to waste the good weather and headed out again.

We went to the Duncansby head lighthouse which we had as an optional attraction on our itinerary. Again, it was lucky that we decided to do it because it was another spectacular sight that greeted us. The sun was blazing and the deep blue hues of the ocean at the lighthouse was just an unbelievable sight. We spent an hour at the lighthouse before returning to the bnb and enjoying the sunset. Meanwhile our hosts came down to let us know that there could be some dolphins in the ocean as there were some sightings further east. The room had binoculars and we kept watch for the Dolphine but unfortunately for us they never turned up. Finally, at around 11 PM we called it a day.

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General Orkney Scenery

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Animals grazing in manicured lawns!

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Yesnaby cliffs, a few more clicks below

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Some cute sheep and horses on Orkney

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Our airbnb room in Gills Bay!

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View from our room, right across the Ocean!

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Duncansby Head

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More Duncansby Head

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Sun set from our room!
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:31   #8
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Day 9 (6th June): After a blissful nightís sleep in one of the most amazing houses we had ever been in, we were up and bounding about in no time. We were ready by 7.30 AM and our hosts had laid out another mind boggling breakfast. Home made breads, home made croissants, jams, marmalades, fruits, pancakes. We just couldnít decide what to eat. We had great conversations as well about our mutual travels to Iceland and other parts of Europe. One other local tip our hosts gave us was to visit Chanonry point, a famous Dolphin watchpoint in Scotland. Considering that we had a rather easy driving day, we decided to include Chanonry point in our itinerary. We had done a lot of research on West and North Scotland but we did not look into East Scotland much at all. The only thing we had planned was a drive through the interiors starting from east Scotland which we picked up from the Grand Tour series on Prime.

We left the bnb at around 8.30 AM and east Scotland had a surprise for us. The drives were once again spectacular but these were not wild like the West Scotland drives. They were more Switzerlandish in that it all looked perfectly manicured and landscaped a la Switzerland. Even the sea was calmer and just felt like huge blue sheet of ice instead of the heaving animal that it was in the West and the North of the country. Enjoying the scenic drives and stopping for the occasional breathtaking viewpoint, we made it to Chanonry point by noon. An hour of waiting for the Dolphins to show up turned out to be in vain. Despite the disappointment, we brushed it off and were eagerly looking forward to the Grand Tour drive.

From the episode, we mapped out what looked like the route they had taken through some spectacular Scottish countryside. From Golspie on the east coast, we took a right into the interior towards Lairg. We drove up to Achfairy and Laxford bridge through some serene Lochs and wild Scottish countryside. There were a 100 viewpoints where we wanted to stop and soon we stopped stopping because we would never finish the day if we kept that on. It was a 2 hour drive up with all the stops and a 2 hour drive the exact same way back. We were ending the day at Inverness but not before we saw the famous Lochness. The Lochness turned out to be not so spectacular but it was one of those that you just have to see if you are in Scotland. Inverness however was a beautiful city. We stopped at our airbnb which was a nice little cottage quite close to the centre of the city. Our host was not at home, so we just made some dinner in the kitchen by ourselves.We were not sleepy despite the long drives that day and watched some TV before turning in for the night.

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Eastern Scotland

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Some pics from the route from the Grand Tour episode on Scotland

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Old 4th November 2019, 02:38   #9
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Day 10 (7th June): The next morning, we left our accommodation at 7.30 AM. However, we didnít realise at that time that we had left our kindle back at the airbnb. Well, that was another 6k added to the trip budget. This was the last day of the Scottish leg of our trip. We were to end the day at Liverpool starting from Inverness in the morning and it was in itself one hell of a drive. We still wanted to explore Edinburgh. We decided that we would have enough time to do a hike up the famous Arthurís seat in Edinburg and lunch in a restaurant there and headed to Edinburgh. The highway to Edinburgh was one of the best drives of my life. It was through the famous Cairngorns national park. The weather was fantastic as well and it made it a brilliant drive. The greenery of the scenery cannot be explained and can only be partially experienced via pics.

We made it to Edibburgh by noon and set off for Arthurís seat. It was not a long hike up but it was quite steep. We managed to get up in half an hour. The views were quite pleasing to the eye with one side looking over the sea and the other side into the quaint old world structures of the Edinburgh. We got back down soon and decided we had burnt enough calories for a heavy lunch. We had heard of the famous Scottish Jacket Potatoes and decided to get one in a restaurant close by. There are a million ways to eat potatoes but Jacket Potatoes with cheese must be right up there. Some scones and cakes accompanies the Jacket Potatoes in their journey to our tummies and we left Edinburgh quite sated. The rest of the drive to Liverpool was mainly negotiating highways and increased traffic. We finally reached Merseyside by 6 PM. We did some chocolate shopping in Merseyside before calling it a day at our airbnb. We relaxed by watching some Netflix before turning in.

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The route from Inverness to Edinburgh!


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And another!

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And Another!

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View from Arthur's seat at Ediburgh!

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And Another!

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And Another!
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:42   #10
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Day 11 (8th June): We left our airbnb at 7.30 AM after a breakfast of cereal and coffee. This was a day when we concentrated all our energies on driving to get to London ASAP. We had already seen London in 2014 and it was one of the few cities we really liked. We wanted to get another chance to see central London and drove like the wind to get to London and our airbnb by 4 PM after returning our car. After freshening up, we made our way to central London by bus. We did a whirlwind tour of Hyde Park, St Jamesí park, the Tower bridge, London eye and Big Ben (which was actually closed for maintenance). It was close to 11.30 PM by the time we got back to our airbnb. The next day morning was our flight back and thus ended another amazing European holiday for us.

Some Bonus London Pics!

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The lake in Hyde Park!

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Near Buckingham Palace!

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London Eye!

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Tower Bridge!

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A closeup!
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Old 4th November 2019, 05:02   #11
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Wow this is really a grand tour! An extensive itinerary and a detailed travelogue. You have covered more places in Scotland in 10 Days than I have covered in 3 trips! We could have taken some tips from you for our last trip to Scotland if you had put this one up in June. We went there in July end.

Papabravo has put up that travelogue - https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...ar-f-pace.html (Pacing through UK in a Jaguar F-Pace)

Could not stop myself from posting a few pictures from our trip, though it was nowhere close to as extensive as yours. But we did take millions of pictures

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PS:
Quote:
Originally Posted by sup? View Post
We finally snagged a Petrol Opel Astra. It was a peppy car that didn't give us anything to complain about.
Not a single pic of the vehicle! Does it mean that you did not like it much?

Last edited by BlackPearl : 4th November 2019 at 05:06.
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Old 4th November 2019, 08:23   #12
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
Wow this is really a grand tour! An extensive itinerary and a detailed travelogue. You have covered more places in Scotland in 10 Days than I have covered in 3 trips! We could have taken some tips from you for our last trip to Scotland if you had put this one up in June. We went there in July end.

Papabravo has put up that travelogue - https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...ar-f-pace.html (Pacing through UK in a Jaguar F-Pace)

Could not stop myself from posting a few pictures from our trip, though it was nowhere close to as extensive as yours. But we did take millions of pictures

Not a single pic of the vehicle! Does it mean that you did not like it much?
Thanks! We do a lot of extensive research before we go on our holidays. A good 3-4 months before the trip starts, weekends are dedicated to trip research.

The car was pretty good actually. I must have missed putting up a few pics of it.

Here you go!

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Old 4th November 2019, 11:36   #13
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

Great report and good pictures. Scotland's on my bucket list and your TR would be very useful. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 4th November 2019, 16:27   #14
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

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Thanks! We do a lot of extensive research before we go on our holidays. A good 3-4 months before the trip starts, weekends are dedicated to trip research.
Great pics and you covered almost everything I'll say!
please let me know this, for self drive there, do we need to get some special international driver's license or the Indian license can work fine there?
Also, did you pre-book the car from India?
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Old 4th November 2019, 17:34   #15
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Default Re: The Grand Tour of Scotland: NC-500 and Orkney Islands

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Originally Posted by SahilS View Post
Great pics and you covered almost everything I'll say!
please let me know this, for self drive there, do we need to get some special international driver's license or the Indian license can work fine there?
Also, did you pre-book the car from India?
In London, they did ask for the international driver's license along with my Indian driver's license. I had to apply for the international license after I received my Visa. But this is the first time I had to carry my international license in 5 trips to Europe. Generally, the Indian license in English is enough. In fact in 2014 I booked a Hertz rental in London and the Indian license and passport was sufficient documentation then. This seems to vary from operator to operator.

Ya, I booked my car through the Europcar website. I have used them a few times and they are pretty reliable.

Edit: More info about the driving license requirements.

Last edited by sup? : 4th November 2019 at 17:39.
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