The Devils Pulpit | Finnich Glen | Killearn Scotland

The Devil Pulpit

Deep within the primordial bowels of Finnich Glen, lies The Devils Pulpit. An ethereal grotto, gurgling with red tinged water, 70 feet below the Earth’s surface in Killearn, Scotland.

The “River of Blood” calls to you from the bottom of a decrepit stairway. As a result, down you start to climb. Take care as you scale the steep, slippery and crumbling steps into the chasm below.

Jacobs Ladder into the Devils Pulpit RootlessRoutes 2018
Jacobs Ladder into the Devils Pulpit RootlessRoutes 2018

This flight of 78 steps known as Jacob’s Ladder or the Devil’s Staircase, was built by John Blackburn, the proprietor of the Killearn estate, in the early to mid 1800s. The steps are so very old, they virtually decay below your feet. So be alert as you clamber down into this tiny crag into the earth.

As you are climbing down, it is difficult not to ask yourself if perhaps you have completely lost the plot.

Looking into The Devils Pulpit RootlessRoutes 2018
Looking into The Devils Pulpit RootlessRoutes 2018

But then, you see it!

The Devil's Staircase Finnich Glen
Jacobs Ladder inside Finnich Glen at The Devil’s Pulpit Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2018

Blood Red Waters of Finnich Glen

Finnich Glen is rich with verdant mossy foliage. Vibrant red sandstone stands out in eerie effect, as do the waters of the blood red burn.

The walls tower above, at points blocking out the sun. Elsewhere, sun streams in, casting  spectral shadows and creating tracks of magical light.

The journey down and back up again, may be perilous… but the surreal beauty of Finnich Glen is undeniable.

Devils Pulpit Scotland 2018
The Devil’s Pulpit Finnich Glen / RootlessRoutes Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2018

The Devil’s Pulpit is an uniquely featured rock formation, which is often immersed beneath the rambling waters of the gorges underbelly.

Climbing into the glen and the subsequent ascent can be outright treacherous. Even the simple act of parking and walking along the road to get to the entrance is a death defying act.

Making your way out and back to your vehicle in one piece is surprisingly joyous.

Yet once within the vivid walls of Finnich Glen, beyond the sinister name The Devil’s Pulpit, nothing at the “den of the devil”, feels ominous in the least.

Braving the disconcerting climb for a glimpse of the serene and unusual beauty below.

Is it worth the risk?

Does the challenge of getting there make it all that more enchanting?

The Creation of Ashdhu / Ashdow / Finnich Glen

Through millennia the rambling water of Carnock Burn sluiced a short but deep chasm in the terra firma, eventually creating this remarkable glen.

Scotland is greatly made up of grey basalt rock. It’s sandstone and limestone is largely tan to brown. So when the distinctive red sandstone emerges from the depths in which it was naturally honed, it tends to create a rather dramatic sight.

Originally known as Ashdhu / Ashdow , uisge dubh in Gaelic , today Finnich Glen is commonly referred to as The Devils Pulpit.

The actual Devil’s Pulpit is not the gorge itself. It is a circular rock found within the burn.

When the waters are low, they flow around the rock formation giving it an air of mystical powerfulness.

Most who visit Finnich Glen do not even realise that the Devils Pulpit is a simply a stone at there feet and not the actual gorge they stand within.

Quote from a 1933 book “The Campsies and the Land of Lennox”

“Down in the channel is the Devil’s Pulpit, whither he was wont to go when he had anything of importance to say to those of his minions who lived in this area. A long flight of stairs leads to the channel, and when you are there you feel remote from the world. Only the moon is required to produce the most weird and awesome effect.”

There is some Celtic lore involving Druids and even the Devil himself for this place. But most of today’s stories about The Devils Pulpit, its dodgy staircase and the “River of Blood” are of recent provenance, made up by those trying to enhance its mystery. “Cough” bloggers “cough”.

Is The Devils Pulpit a darkly enchanting natural phenomena?

The Devils Pulpit Scotland 2018
The Devils Pulpit / Finnich Glen Scotland 2018

Or is it of supernatural origin?

I’ll leave that up to you.

Descending into The Devils Pulpit / The Devils Steps

It doesn’t look so bad from above when you first start out, but once you descend a few steps… there is no doubt just how cumbersome this climb can be.

Built over 100 years ago, this crumbling staircase is slippery, covered in mud and moss and extremely unstable

Many steps have slipped to new positions, pushed up by an invading tree, making them less like steps and more like slides and hurdles.

There is nothing to hold on to and the rock wall sides are sharp. The offending tree juts out of the middle of the steps, forcing you to climb over and around it part way down.

One step is tilted so far forward, I had to scoot down it on my butt, covering my backend in slimy red mud. So bring towels, but leave them up above. Don’t carry much on the way down, for it is already easy to slip and fall to the unyielding rock floor below.

Once safely past the slimy rocks, over the perilous tree and past the tilted step, you come upon some actual steps still in place. Then the steps just cut off and you must jump or scamper down to the gorges muddy floor.

Yet with feet finally upon the embankment below, the glen floor is still a hazardous place. Remain cautious.

Inside The Devils Pulpit

As you climb the craggy steps into Finnich Glen, if not totally encumbered by the exertion of your descent, you will notice the air cools as you make your way down.

The atmospheric changes are similar to that of the The Glen, in Sligo Ireland.

It is as if you have descended upon a separate world.

The bewitching effect sweeps you away momentarily. A calm descends. Then some white kid with beauty salon dreads starts yelling to his bikini clad, barefoot wife (how the Hell did she climb down here?) while setting up a $6000 video rig WITH LIGHTS, in the middle of it all and you are immediately brought back to reality.

This once illusive and magical place, has been overwhelmed by those looking for locations off the beaten path.

But this path is now certainly well beaten.

Beautiful as it may be, this attraction that has managed to remain untainted for centuries is quickly sliding towards it demise.

Be gentile on your visit. Take out with you, everything you brought in and remain on the path specified.

Looking down on Finnich Glen from halfway down the Jacobs Ladder or the Devils Steps and into The Devils Pulpit and Finnich Glen Scotland 2018

The Devils Pulpit is always cooler and more humid than the area above and a strange dampening of sound occurs, making it quieter than the world above.

The red tinged water is clear enough to see the bottom. The trickling water is clean and cool.

Rest upon the tree that seems to have fallen just right for you to sit and rest. Kick at the water, as sunlight streaks from the sky in Godlike tendrils.

Shoes and socks dry in the Godlike tendrils as people explore The Devils Pulpit and Finnich Glen Scotland 2018

Take off your shoes and leave them to the side so that you may wade into the clear, clean water.

Then cross the stream and head to the small waterfall.

Some will wander beyond this point to the larger waterfall that flows from the rocky outcrop above which is the highest point of Finnich Glen.

The Devils Pulpit Scotland 2018

Keep in mind, the Devils Pulpit can trap people in its steely grasp, as the waters quickly rise. You are now at more than 70 feet below the surface, subsequently there is no phone signal down there.

Finding The Devil’s Pulpit / Finnich Glen

Finnich Glen is located in Stirlingshire, east of Finnich Bridge on A809, about 15 miles from Glasgow. (OSGB36: NS 4961 8489 [10m precision] WGS84)

There are 2 parking spots next to the bridge. It is a pretty dangerous place to park
There are 2 wee parking spots next to the bridge. It is a pretty dangerous place to park

The road (A809) is busy and dangerous. The locals are sick of dealing with inconsiderate people that treat the area like their own personal playground.

Please park respectfully and keep safety in mind, for you and everyone around you.

Unlike what other bloggers advise, enter at the gate just east of the bridge. Above all, do not disturb other areas or go barreling through the trees at another spot. Finnich Glen is on private property. Therefore left in trust for all to enjoy. Please do don’t abuse the privilege.

People live here, hence it is reasonably upsetting to them to see people tromping carelessly about a long beloved place.

Do not park on the verge by the bridge. It’s an insanely dangerous place to park. Don’t block anyone in and be aware of traffic. The speed limit is 60 mph on that narrow and winding roads, subsequently there are a lot of blind spots.

Once entering the wee gate at the foot of the bridge, the slightly obvious path takes you to the left. Flanked by Finnich Glen on the left and fencing to the right, just follow the path via the swath of discarded socks and beer bottles.

” alt=”Path to jacobs Staircase and the entrance to Finnich Glen / The Devils Pulpit Scotland 2018 RootlessRoutes” width=”749″ height=”1000″ /> Path to jacobs Staircase the entrance to Finnich Glen and The Devils Pulpit Scotland 2018 RootlessRoutes

Kids in flip flops and platform shoes preparing to descend the perilous staircase of Finnich Glen Scotland 2018
Kids in flip flops and platform shoes preparing to descend the perilous staircase of Finnich Glen Scotland 2018

Walk along the wooded area between the Glen and the fencing and you will come upon The Devils Pulpit entrance.

You will know you are close, by the trail of discarded wet socks, discarded garbage and likely a group of people seemingly disappearing into the ground.

Take everything you arrive with back out with you and pick up any litter you might see along the way. Don’t be an ass.

Respecting The Devil’s Pulpit / Finnich Glen | The Outlander Phenomena

Due to the popularity of Outlander, along with other commercial connections the visitors to The Devils Pulpit is much increased. Hence irresponsible behavior has led to serious abuses of the landscape and littering is rampant. Consequently, minor injuries and even more, full out rescue operations have become more and more common.

A new caution sign has now been erected at the site of Devils Pulpit / Finnich Glen, so take heed, since many people traverse The Devils Pulpit without appropriate climbing gear.

Often visitors park in dangerous locations with little regard to the locals.

Blocking traffic flow and carelessly walking along a highly trafficked, high speed roadway that has no verge is not only rude it is just plane stupid.

Plan ahead and be conscientious if your surroundings.

 

Finnich Glen / The Devils Pulpit Scotland 2018 RootlessRoutes
Finnich Glen / The Devils Pulpit Scotland 2018 RootlessRoutes

The Future of Finnich Glen / The Devils Pulpit

Visit Finnich Glen early in the day in order to avoid the crowds, since it is no longer even remotely obscure. Dozens of people visit every day. In result, there are a lot of kids trying to climb down in inappropriate footwear such as like flip flops or even platform shoes.

Killearn Glen which includes  Finnich Glen / The Devil’s Pulpit was left to the Gordon Trust in 1980, on the condition that public access would be maintained to the site in perpetuity. Because of this, overuse and dangerous behavior will inevitably cause authorities to regulate access to Finnich Glen itself. Be kind to your surroundings and attentive to others. Do your best to park safely.

Don’t be an inconsiderate ass or The Devils Pulpit might just get you!

Scottish Highlands | Corrupt Uncorrupted Lands of Scotland

RootlessRoutes 2018

Scotland is a beautiful country. The Scottish Highlands, magnificent to behold. To revel in the grandeur of its ethereal terrain is a privilege I hold dear.

Scotland draws thousands of visitors each year. Most are now drawn to the fetching scenery of Scotland’s northern wilds. The Scottish Highlands are now Scotland’s largest tourism draw after Edinburgh.

As we hike, bike, drive and enjoy the breathtaking landscape and exhilarating roads, the wonder of this place is undeniable.

Yet a dark narrative lurks behind its stark allure.

How did such a magical landscape become a domain for mostly sheep?

RootlessRoutes Scotland 2018
Sheep in a treeless vista. Bealach Na BA Scottish Highlands 2018

Although never highly populated, the uncultivated land we see today and subsequently the sparse population of the Scottish Highlands is not a completely natural occurrence.

Centuries of clear cutting helped to deforest an already receding woodland. Regrowth, suppressed to make room for sheep.

The populace, cleared by force… much like the trees. Ripped from their roots, to also make room for sheep.

By the 1850s the Highland culture, demonized and disregarded for centuries had been virtually eradicated.

The insidious nature of centuries of repression, maintains its steely grasp on much of Scotland’s countryside today.

RootlessRoutes Northwest Highlands 2017
Northwest Highlands. RootlessRoutes Scotland 2017

The caustic relationship between England and Scotland runs long and deep.

For centuries a Brit marrying a Scot, was a crime punishable by death. The borderland between England and Scotland, a bloody no man’s land.

In time, Britons melded a bit with the lowland Scots, albeit with a wary eye. But the rogue nature of clan culture made it hard to tame the Highlands.

The dividing line between the Highlands and Lowlands has never been distinctly clear. The negative view of the natives of these Highlands have remained crystal clear

The Stuarts / Stewarts 

The House of Stuart (Stewart), started with Robert II. The Stuarts bared Kings and Queens of Scotland from the late 14th Century. When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603 the true reign of the Stuarts began with James I.

It was a Renaissancian time for Scotland.

Except for the brief time that England was a Commonwealth (1649  1660), the Stuarts remained monarchs until the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

In 1707 the independent Kingdom of Scotland merged with England. The Act of Union created the Kingdom of Great Britain. In many ways this benefitted both nations. Scotland needed money and Britain needed a way to control their feral neighbor to the North.

The Jacobites of the Scottish Highlands

Although flawed, James I of England VI of Scotland, was highly regarded by his people, having experienced long standing peace and fairly low taxation.

Upon his death his son Charles I ruled with a steady hand, yet at a turbulent time. His unyielding disagreements with Parliament and the rise of Cromwell as a Commonwealth leader, led to the loss his head.

Portrait of King James
James I of England & Ireland VI of Scotland.

Nine years later, with the monarchy restored, Charles II became another much beloved King who reigned true. He died young. 

His arrogant and disagreeable brother James II succeeded him. With the blessing of Parliament, James II was quickly deposed by William and Mary (James II son in law and daughter). The Convention of Estates in Scotland, recognized William and Mary as legitimate monarchs over James II.

Death & The Divine Right of Kings

But Jacobite leanings in the Highlands stemmed mostly from the supportive treatment of the Highland clans by James I, and their continued belief in the “Divine Right of Kings”. Because of this, numerous Jacobite attempts were made to restore James and his descendants to the throne.

On April 16, 1746, the Jacobites met their most devastating defeat at Culloden Moor. 

Culloden Battlefield Rootless Routes Inverness Scotland 2017 by Elizabeth Whitener
Culloden battlefield

Thousands of men died in the name of Charles Edward Stuart. (The Bonnie Prince).  An ominous sense of foreboding still permeates that boggy hill in Inverness.

Cause & Effect

In the hope of suppressing any possibility of future Jacobite uprisings. The Duke of Cumberland (King George II’s son), did everything he could to end the Highland way life.

Kilts and Tartans were banned. Clans forbidden. Anyone suspected of Jacobite connections were imprisoned, executed or forcibly transported to the Americas. Scottish Gaelic was discouraged and suppressed.

Sadly, this is not where this tragic decimation of the Highland culture ends.

The Clearances

Most Highlanders were monetarily poor and living off the land. At the time of the final Jacobite rebellion, they mostly lived as tenant farmers. This meant paying rent (aka tax) to clan chiefs and land owners for land that had been passed down through their families for centuries.

The process of clearing out people began prior to 1745, but sped up quickly after the final Jacobite rebellion.

The deconstruction of clan society created a detachment between clan chiefs and their kinsman. In a short time, many of the chiefs grew to closely resemble British aristocracy, and saw their kinsmen a disposable commodity.

Shocked Scottish sheep. Rootless Routes Scotland 2017 photo by Elizabeth Whitener
Sheep shocked by the dreadful driving skills of tourists driving on Skye. Scotland 2017 Arnisdale / Glenelg by Elizabeth Whitener Rootless routes

In the name of agricultural improvement, tenant farmers were forcibly relocated to make room for the more profitable sheep.

With no laws to protect these farmers, most moved to coastal areas to fish for kelp. Many Highland Scots had no choice but to emigrate. Entire ancient communities were completely wiped out.

In the 1820s the fishing and kelp industry died. To prohibit people from moving back inland, owners raised rents to unreasonable levels.

Then 1844 saw a devastating potato famine and more Scots were forced to emigrate or die.

Landowners continued to clear people from their lands until the 1850s.

Today there are more full blood Highlands descendents living in North Carolina than in Scotland.

Who the Hell owns Scotland?

Recent studies show that 432 people own half of all privately-owned land in Scotland, making this one of the highest concentrations of private land ownership in all of Europe. There is no way for the public to discover who owns what in Scotland. Nor how that land got into their hands.

The Scottish Land Commission (SLC) was formed to analyze the situation and make recommendations which could lead to significant changes in land law. It is their job to establish whether so few people holding so much land is detrimental to society.

Until something is decided, the vast open tracts of stunningly remarkable landscapes shall continue to draw visitors. As will the lochs and mountains dotted with rotting ancient brochs, farms, estates and castles on the horizon.

Winding single track roads will continue to curve through baaing sheep, and the tourists will keep coming.

Now What?

A sad irony in this grim history is the accidental but prudent result of this mass misappropriation of land. If more land goes into the hands of more Scots, what does that mean for the landscape?

The uncommercialized and undeveloped land of the Highlands, undoubtedly is one of the reasons why it remains so unique. The uncorrupted vistas are the crux of Scotland’s tourism boom. Subsequently supplying a new found wealth to Scotland. Albeit, who is most gaining from the monetary insurgence in Scotland remains to be clear.

With the indubitable right for more Scottish citizens to own land, build homes and live their lives, comes the need for more roads, more shops and more commercialization. In order to progress, the things that make this land so very remarkable may also be the most vulnerable.

How does a country offer fair opportunity to regain some of the losses of a people long repressed, without destroying the best parts of itself in the process? I simply do not know.

What I do know, is that when experiencing this awe inspiring environment, as it stands today or as it may be in the future, it is important to understand its history and contemplate the depths of the loss that got them here.

When you gaze upon the huge swaths of stunning vacant land, you should also appreciate the lives that once called this place home. The harsh realities of a culture so thoroughly washed away, that its remnants have become as natural a part of the environment, as the sheep.

Driving Scotland | On & Beyond the NC500 & Scottish Highlands

RootlessRoutes A838 Scottish Highlands 2018

Driving Scotland is a distinctive pleasure. Like a gift, you never knew you needed or even existed. A reward you cannot believe you ever lived without. The roads of Scotland wind through the most diverse and breathtaking bits of the United Kingdom.  Rustic, often single track, these roads allow for the thrill of maneuvering along formidable pavement through some of the most alluring scenery on the planet.

It was in the Scottish Highlands that I first fell in love with Scotland. But long before the NC500. Long before ever driving a single mile of Scotland, I was already smitten. Once I got behind the wheel and experienced actually driving through Scotland, Scotland then enmeshed itself in my heart, and embedded into my soul.

I’ve now driven over 5000 miles of Scotland. It was not enough. A month long, solo trip in Autumn. Almost a month with a friend in Spring. I cannot wait to return and do it all over yet again… and then some.

Driving Scotland in Aberdeenshire 2017 RootlessRoutes
Kildrummy / Alford Scotland Aberdeenshire. Unknown sheep road 2017 Driving Scotland RootlessRoutes

England is beautiful with rolling, winding country roads. Ireland lush and exquisite, with some quite notable roadways. But driving Scotland! Have you seen the Bealach Na Ba?

Driving Scotland is pure ecstasy! If you enjoy driving as much as you enjoy visiting castles, learning of history and taking in scenic views, you simply cannot miss out on the joys of driving Scotland.

Scotland is a Land of Remarkable Variety

Even if you know Scotland, live there or have visited it. You cannot appreciate the varied spectrum of characteristics it contains within its borders, until actually driving Scotland. The NC500 carries you along the outer roads of a magnificent coast, but to drive through the depths of the Scottish Highlands is an entirely different and equally spellbinding adventure.

Across the less lauded, yet beautiful Ayrshire. Up the West Coast or through the stirring forests of Argyle. Over the fantastic Churchill causeways to the divinely anomalous Orkneys. The castle strewn, unfairly disparaged Aberdeenshire with its wildly remote sheep filled roads. The ancient, historically rich roads of the quirky Scottish Borders. Through lovely Perth onto the Old Military roads. There are far too many varied places, roads and routes to mention here.

The melange of elements that make up Scotland, become as vivid as the landscape when driving through it. The spectrum of its variety becomes infinitely striking as you roll along the road. Within the 40 miles between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the glaring differences between the two ancient cities and everything in between is palpable. Inverness, only a two hour straight shot from Glencoe on A82. Yet the unique elements of one is nowhere to be seen in the other.

Sheep on A836 while driving Scotland 2018
Northbound sheep on a Southbound drive. Driving Scotland A836 near Tongue Scottish Highlands 2018

A land both abiding and tentative. The Scottish Highlands offer greatly varied and uniquely surreal vistas, megalithic mountains, rolling plains, beautiful beaches and some of the most exhilarating roads in all of Great Britain. The lush and isolated rural roads of Aberdeenshire and the Scottish Borders are equally unique, challenging and sublime. The diversity of the Scottish landscape can make you feel as if you’ve not only driven into another country, but onto another world. Yet the one absolute when driving Scotland today, are the sheep. They have become as enduring a part of the landscape as  the heather and sedges.

Limits, Expectations & Dangers of Driving Scotland

Driving Scotland is an unique experience. Undeniably beautiful to behold. Oddly barren yet lush. At times otherworldly. The roads are narrow, often one track. Largely barely wide enough for even one vehicle, yet considered for two.

The second you see that Welcome to Scotland sign, traffic seems to collectively accelerate.  The speed limit itself does not change, but if you are not driving 80 MPH in the fast lane on an M road (which is on the right BTW). Get the Hell out of the way. There are those speed cameras, but it doesn’t seem that they are much of a deterrent for Scots.

In most of Scotland, especially in the Scottish Highlands, the police are as few and far between as are the toilets, trash bins and AT&T phone signal. I saw a police car in front of the police station on the A838 at the Kinlochbervie turn off. It was after all a police station. There was also a toilet, a red telephone box, a trash bin and low and behold cell phone signal. I pinched myself. Yep, still alive.

With no police, few guardrails and limited places to pull over, maniacal white commercial vans speed your way undaunted. Daring you to make it to a ‘Passing Place’ quickly or lose  your side view wing mirror. Shit head tourists park in said ‘Passing Places’ to take pictures. Suicidal feral goats jump into the road from out of nowhere, at the crux of a blind turn. Right as you begin to contemplate the meaning of the “Feral Goats” sign.  Filicidal sheep graze their newest lambs at the edge of the narrowest, single track, again often right after a blind turn. And I fucking love it!

Don’t Freak Out While Driving Scotland

This may make some people totally freak out. But I don’t get nervous. Not even remotely anxious. I become exhilarated. My senses, innately focused. Honed in on my surroundings, distinctly alert to my driving and everything around me. I guess you could say, I become with one the road “Ohm” Yeah so… you get my point.

RootlessRoutes A836 Tongue Scotland 2018
A836 Kyle of Tongue. Scotland road trip 2018 Driving Scotland

The speed limit on A roads in Scotland is 60 MPH UOI (unless otherwise indicated). I’m talking about miles per hour, not those measly kilometers to which you Europeans are so accustomed. M class roads ( the major motorways) are 70 MPH  UOI. Most roads do NOT have speed limit signs, because you are meant to know this. B roads vary, but for the most part I found them to be 60 MPH.

Transport Scotland manages 95% of the trunk roads in Scotland. Scotland’s trunk road network is as diverse as is its scenery. The trunk road network is 3,507 km (2,179 miles) long, including slip roads and roundabouts. Ranging from the somewhat intimidating 10 lane M8 in Glasgow’s center, to the scrawniest of single track carriageways in the west Highlands. But there are far more roads there than this. God only knows who maintains them.

Police are few, because they are unneeded. Know the rules of the road and the speed limits. Drive courteously and with confidence and care. The lack of police does not mean it is an idiots free for all like in the US.

More to See & Do When Driving Scotland

To visit Scotland means an unfathomable variety of  places to see and things do. Castles, neolithic and historic ruins, the Scots themselves. A county full of rich history, ancient cities and equally ancient pubs. Vast open vistas, monolithic mountains, fairy pools, flags and glens. Azure water beaches, alien like landscapes, the list goes on and on. When driving Scotland you get to add the many grand roads and routes you can experience to this already jam packed list.

There are so many fantastic road trips and routes to take when driving Scotland. I will mention only a few here and as I post about them, I shall connect the information here as well. Let’s start with the mother of all Scottish roads, the Bealach Na Ba!

The Bealach Na Ba / Pass of the Cattle -Applecross Peninsula – Scottish Highlands

An extremely narrow, crazily winding, one track, mountainous road with near 20% gradients, deadly hairpin turns, blind spots and suicidal sheep. The Bealach Na Ba consists of a “High Road” and a “Low Road” to Applecross. Both are exciting, but obviously, the high road is a bit more fun. I had no choice but to take the low road up, due to the Bealach Beag cycling event. I took the High Road down and then headed over to Shieldaig.

Applecross itself is minute, but stunningly beautiful. As is Shieldaig. The drive was absolutely thrilling. Give yourself at least 2 hours and stop off for a bite in Applecross.

If you are not a confident left side of the road driver, do NOT do it. And if you are driving an RV up there, you are an asshole! The speed limit is 60 MPH and the passing places are NOT for stopping for a view or pictures.

“Narrow road – no more than three sheep abreast”

A836 Tongue – Tain  & Tongue – John O Groat – Highlands

Read about driving the A836 here

Considered the most remote category A road in Scotland. A836 narrows to nearly a bike path at some sections and opens up to a dual carriage roadway in others. It runs east west along the North Coast, as part of the NC500. The remotest part of the A836 runs north south. Straight through the middle of the Highlands, is this far less trafficked and wonderful driving route. You can do them both by taking the A9 to A836 all the way around to A9 again.

A838 Tongue – Durness –  Lairg – Tongue – Highlands

Connecting at A836 at Tongue, this wonderful drive that winds through some extremely challenging mountainous and wonderfully scenic road, then on to the gorgeous beach of Durness. Shortly from there it begins to head more south, through Laird and back to A836 where you can head North back to Tongue or South East to Tain on A836. You pass 5 amazing lochs on the A838. There is a rest stop,  at the turn off to Rhiconich.

A82 Inverness – Urquhart Castle – Loch Ness – Highlands

This 17 mile route runs along Loch Ness, giving you ample opportunity and well marked verges, at which you can stop and view the lovely loch. I believe it to be a dual carriageway the entire way and a fairly easy drive. A good test of your skills and confidence as huge tour buses speed by at what seems only inches to us more accustomed to wider roads.  The route blooms a bright yellow when the Gorse is in bloom and it has just enough winding and bending bits to offer a wee thrill. You drive right through the village of Loch Ness where you can stop for a bite and Urquhart Castle is well worth a visit for absolutely anyone.

A93 / A939 Perth – Ballater – Aberdeen or Grantown on Spey – Aberdeenshire (OLD MILITARY ROAD)

80 miles of sheer ecstacy to drive. I drove part of this route by accident and freaked out a little. Then went back to do the entire thing. My exaltations on the GoPro are hysterical. An easier, but thrilling ride on a well maintained road

Pick up A93 at Perth and head northeast for Braemer. At Bridge of Cally, your heart will start to race as the road rises. I believe this is where I exclaim to an empty car, “are you f***ing kidding me?” Once past Glenshee Ski Station, it is a jaw dropping ride towards Braemar. Check your fuel, use the toilet now, there isn’t a damned thing around until the next Ski Station at best.

You have a choice at Braemar to head to Aberdeen, which is a nice ride and driving through the rural sheep roads of Aberdeenshire is highly recommended.  Or turn north on A939 and head for Moray. If you follow the A939 and signs to Grantown-on-Spey, the drive becomes even more thrilling. The drop once past the ski station at Lecht is a thrill for cyclists, motorbikers and autos alike. (and for suicidal sheep as shown in the video). Once you think it is over as the scenery begins to dull, there is a short but spectacular drive onto Grantown-on-Spey.

A961 – St Margarets Hope – Churchill Causeways – Kirkwall – Orkney

I landed on Orkney in the wake of hurricane Maria, completely unprepared and ignorant of the Churchill Causeways. This series of four causeways link the mainland to the smaller islands. Built in the 1940s, primarily as naval defences, they now connect A961 to Kirkwall (where I stayed) and Burwick.

I braved the insanely rough seas with my trusty Mitsubishi Outlander Hybrid on the ferry from Scrabster to St Margarets Hope.  The causeway was insane. Huge waves slammed into the car so hard it pushed it from its lane. Through the rain, waves, mist and a wee bit of hysteria, I saw sunken ships within the wake. Of course my GoPro had just timed out.

RootlessRoutes 2017 photo courtesy of Ian Balcomb
How the barriers looked on my first  crossing it. BBC photo by Ian Balcomb

Going back to do it again once I had checked in I found that the weather had greatly calmed. Later I was told the waves often bring rocks with them that dent cars and break windows. Regardless, driving the mainland of Orkney is well worth the drive. I regret having only three days there. I drove every main road and road in between that I could find.

Aberdeenshire The Castle Circle

Rural unmapped farm roads with blind entrances, fearless sheep, gorse so high you cannot see around the bend and in the east, the unexpected view of a red ferrari in the rearview easily exceeding 100 MPH. Please check back for this thorough route. I will attach it here once complete.

A836 Tongue to Tain | Scotland Road Trip | Scottish Highlands

2018 RootlessRoutes A836 Scotland road trip Scottish Highlands

The A836 in the Scottish Highlands. Made up of steep gradients and sharp turns, that wind through a bleakly stunning and starkly remote landscape. One of Scotland’s most stunning drives, the A836 is a distinctly Highland route. An awe inspiring journey, this “must do” Scotland road trip culminates and ends within the farthest reaches of the Scottish Highlands. It is the northernmost A-class road on mainland Great Britain. Truly off the beaten path!

A formidable drive, the A836 consists of 122 miles of variable types of roadway. The mainly coastal route runs 58 East West miles along the North Coast from John O’Groats to Tongue, making up part of the NC500. The other 64 miles run North to South-ish from Tongue to Tain. You cannot get much further off the beaten path, than driving the Tongue to Tain section of the A836, unless going off road. This isolated length of stimulating road, cuts through some of the most secluded and foreboding bits of the Scottish Highlands, offering one Hell of a ride.

RootlessRoutes A836 Tongue Scotland 2018
A836 Kyle of Tongue. Scotland road trip 2018 The Scottish Highlands

If the A836 is so remote, why drive it?

If you read my blog or know anything about me, I am driven. Seriously driven by my passions. One of my favourite things to do (obviously) is to travel. Right close to travel is my love for driving (or riding, but that’s another post). If something is going on over a thousand miles away. I’m just as happy to hop into my car and drive to it than to fly (although I quite enjoy flying too).

A Scotland road trip, is a challenge for the driver. Regardless of which side of the road to which you are accustomed. The excitement of driving 60 MPH, on an unfamiliar (for me) side of the road, on a curvy, hilly, crazy narrow, one track sounds spectacular to me. Add up all of that wonder, put it in Scotland and I’m in. I am so very very in! Are you?

A836 Scotland road trip RootlessRoutes 2018
There are a few trees in the Scottish Highlands. Section of the A836 in Lairg. BTW that is a 2 way road.

Drive the Scottish Highlands

“Life is a journey”

What an utter load of crap. Why people find this saying so meaningful when on literal terms, it means nothing at all, is beyond me. Life is a journey! Duh! Thats a definition, not some deep and meaningful metaphor.

 “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson never said or wrote that. It was some preacher in the 1920s. Of course Emerson didn’t, it’s insipid. The only end destination we all share is death. If your journey is focused on getting to your destination, then… I don’t know. Maybe you’re reading this blog for a greater reason than you realized.  Perhaps it’s time to experience “the journey” with more intensity, so you can stop worrying so much about the destination. Why don’t you start by taking your first Scotland road trip?

“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”

That’s what Emerson did write. It’s neither the journey nor the destination. It’s the drive… it’s reveling in the damned drive. Enjoying the shit around you, or if you are not, finding the things that bring you joy  and doing them.

How to get to the A836

From the NC500

If already driving the NC500, you can hit the A836 from various locations. A838 heads East at Durness and turns into A836 at Tongue, heading east to John O’ Groats. If on this route, once you cross that awesome bridge that takes you over the Kyle of Tongue, follow the signs to head South on A836 at Tongue.

The route in total on the A836 from tongue to Tain is about 1 hour 35 minutes, without stops. Follow the route all the way over the Bonar Bridge. A836 will end at just about Tain. From there you can either return on the A836 , or take A9 North to hit the East West part of A836. A9 turns a bit at Latheron and meets with the A836 road at Thurso. Here you can either head west back towards Tongue or East towards John O’Groats. You can also take the A9 to A99 which will land you at John O’Groats.

From Inverness

The drive along A9 from Inverness to A836 is also a commendable Scotland road trip. If you are tentative about driving in Scotland, it is a good route on which to get your ‘feet wet’. It isn’t as winding as some but it still can be fast and a busy route. The roadway itself is wider, well marked and I’m pretty sure none of it is single track. It even has dual carriageway sections. Take A82 to A9. Cross the Moray Firth, then the Cromarty Firth then follow the signs for for the A836 that appear just around Tain. This route, without stops takes about 2 and 1/2 hours.

From Ullapool or Skye

Follow the NC500 Instructions

From Edinburgh

Take the A9 to Inverness. It’s a Hell of a drive. Far more challenging than the A836. I shall write about it soon. See the Inverness route for further instructions

I will write about the NC500 portion of the A836 soon. It is also a lovely drive, remote but not as remote as the tongue to Tain portion. Challenging, yet again, not quite as challenging as the other. It is far my picturesque.

 

Drive the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh | Scotland Road Trip

Scottish Borders Rootless Routes Scotland 2017

The Scottish Borders are quite different from much of Scotland, nonetheless distinctive from bordering England.  Additionally the Borders are full of exceptional wonders and unexpected gems.

Flanked on the Northwest by England’s Northumbria and Cumbria. The North Sea to the East, the Lothians on the North, with South Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway to the West.

The boundary line between Scotland and England wavered riotously through the centuries, consequently creating an even more stormy relationship than the two countries already had.img_3926

Known for an impressive collection of abbeys, due to the Scottish Borders being the perfect location for Kings of yore to prove their dominance. How else to show who’s king then to erect enormous religious houses right along a regularly disputed border? This typically pissed off the English (especially Henry VIII) as a result, the Scottish Borders have one Hell of a bloody history.

Rootless Routes Scotland Road Trip 2017
the Scottish Borders are simply gorgeous in October.

Detour Through the Scottish Borders

My journey began from a friends house in Frodsham near Manchester heading for Edinburgh on the M6. Due to randomly deciding to make my way to a smaller roadway at about Gretna Green, I found myself deep in the Scottish Borders. A place I had not visited and knew little about.

Upon hitting the Scottish Borders on A7, I exclaimed to an empty car “Holy shit!” (I likely have it on my GoPro video).  It was the first time of many I’d expound to an empty vehicle because of the unbelievable beauty or wonders I witnessed in Scotland.

The Scottish Borders are magnificent, and largely unscathed by over tourism. Filled with so many things to see and do, it would take a week, if not more to see them all.  I don’t know why so few people seem to know of it, but hey… let’s just keep it a secret between you and I. At least for a little while.

Scottish Borders Road Trip Routes

Below is a list of some of the places I discovered. Some are fairly well known, many are quite obscure. There are far too many included for just a one day drive, so I ‘greened’ all of those that were my  favorite. I will create a second Scottish Borders Route that takes you along the coast once I am able.

I have shared links (where available) for all stops along the way. Do call ahead to make sure everything you wish to visit is open before you head out. All times and observations are approximate and subjective.


the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh

Road Trip Route I

Gretna Green to Edinburgh – Trail of the Stuarts – Interior Route

About 100 miles total (161 Kilometers)

  1. Gretna Green
  2. Hermitage Castle & Graveyard
  3. Jedburgh
    • Jedburgh Abbey
    • Mary Queen of Scots House
  4. Cessford Castle (not the most exciting on this list)
  5. Kelso Abbey
  6. Dryburgh Abbey
  7. Melrose Abbey
  8. Innerleithen
    • St Ronan’s Well
    • Traquair House & Brewery
  9. Neidpath Castle
  10. Edinburgh

1) Gretna Green – Gretna Green

In the mid 18th-century English marriage laws were tightened forcing couples to wait until the age of 21 before they could marry without their parents’ consent and their marriage had to take place in a church. Scotland, laws, well yeah, not so much. So with Gretna right there on the border, resulting in, well you can figure it out.

The ensuing new laws meant Gretna became a marriage hot spot. You could marry your first cousin, your sisters 10 year old friend. IN result, running off to Gretna with the stable boy, became a rather regular thing. It’s a fun little town to visit and check out. And as one may expect, it has an awful lot of wedding chapels.

Starting at Gretna Green you can follow the Borders Historic Route , yet none of the suggested stops along that route were particularly interesting to me, you may feel different.

Photo Alert: Plenty of great photo ops

Sheep Alert: Some sheep roam freely in the area

Parking Alert: Fairly abundant amount of free parking

Next Destination: Hermitage Castle Drive Time: 45 minutes


2) Hermitage Castle & Graveyard – Hermitage Castle

Newcastleton, Roxburghshire TD9 0LU

Hermitage Castle Rootless Routes
Hermitage Castle the Scottish Borders on my 1st Scotland Road Trip

Known as the “Bloodiest Tower House in Britain” this ominous ruin, located deep in the wilds of the Borderlands, is a beautiful drive and a quick but memorable visit. The area is abundant with wildlife. Click here for info Hermitage Castle

Photo Alert: Everything is extremely photogenic, particularly the castle interior

Sheep Alert: It’s the Borderlands expect sheep to show up anywhere and everywhere

Parking Alert: decent enough basic car park

Kid Alert: I’d keep an eye on the kids

Additional Information: about 600 feet (200 meters) from the car park you will see a grassy (sometimes muddy) path. Portions of the path are steep. You will pass the Visitor Center for tickets along the way to the castle. Watch your step. Steps into the castle are steep

Toilets: I believe there to be toilets in the visitor center

Worthy Local Stop: Jedburgh Abbey – Abbey Bridge End, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ

Next Destination: Mary Queen of Scots House Drive Time: 45 minutes



3) Jedburgh – Jedburgh

The Village of Jedburgh is a wonderful and ancient village but somehow I missed this Abbey. I drove around but could not find it. It’s freaking HUGE too.  I returned to visit it on my way back from the Highlands a month later. It was well worth it for the history itself, let alone the amazing condition it is in, but it was NOT as close to Hermitage Castle as I expected.

If you are short on driving time, I’d skip heading to Jedburgh. The journey ads 65 minutes total drive time to the trip. There are other similar (but not quite as impressive) Abbey’s along the way. Depends on how much you like Abbeys.

Abbey Bridge End, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ

The remains of this abbey are impressive and largely intact. Building started in the 1100’s, but continued for nearly 80 years. This long expanse of building time created a wonderful conglomeration of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles.

Jedburgh is the largest of the four great abbeys including Dryburgh, Melrose and Kelso. They are all worth a visit for those of us who never tire of such things. When looking for it you will see the Abbey on the hill dominating the sky.

Alternately, Cessford Castle is sort of the least exciting Castle on this trip. If you skip Cessford, you make up  for at least half the time lost if you choose to do Jedburgh Abbey

Photo Alert: Great Photo ops here

Sheep Alert: N/A

Parking Alert: Adequate public car park

Kid Alert: N/A

Next Destination:  Drive Time: 

Next Destination: Mary Queen of Scots House Drive Time: 2 minutes


Queen St, Jedburgh TD8 6EN, UK

FREE TO VISIT or  £1 for an audio tour (it’s worth it)

A weird yet wonderful place in which Mary may have never actually stayed. Nevertheless, worth checking out. Opened in 1987 on the 400th anniversary of Mary’s death, this house belonged to the Kerrs of nearby Ferniehirst Castle, which is probably where she may have been cared for instead. The house has an interesting feature, a left-handed staircase built for the Kerrs (who were left-handed) in the 16th century, to enable them to wield their swords more easily.

Photo Alert: Not a top photo site.

Parking Alert: N/A

Kid Alert: Kids may be bored by this

Toilets: I’m pretty sure there are toilets there, if not there should be some close by

Additional Information: 45 minute tour is extremely interesting

Note: Be careful not to enter the Mary Queen of Scots BnB into your GPS

Next Destination; Cessford Castle – Drive Time: 20 minutes


4) Cessford Castle – Cessford Castle

Kelso TD5 8EG, UK

FREE TO VISIT

Atmospheric ruin of a formerly massive L-plan castle, entrenched in history. Rising to three storeys in the main block and four in the wing. Confirmed from the 15th century and likely earlier. There remains a portion of the large courtyard wall. It is deemed dangerous to enter, but people still do. Although the address says Kelso, this location adds 40 minutes to your trip and was not one of my favourites.

Photo Alert: Fabulously photogenic. Numerous great selfie spots

Parking Alert: Off road car parking only. Do not block anyone or park in a designated passing place.

Kid Alert: A lot of open space to run around, but the castle is an unstable ruin

Toilets: Nothing close by

Additional Information: N/A

Note: Visit and enter at your own risk

Next Destination: Kelso Abbey  Drive Time: 20 minutes


5) Kelso – Kelso

The ancient and simply sublime burgh of Kelso has been the focal point of painters since the 1600’s and remains as quaint and lovely today. A welcoming market town, the drive to Kelso is stunning. Worth stopping for a bite to eat or pre booking a place to stay during your road trip to Edinburgh.

40-44 Bridge St, Kelso TD5 7JD, UK

FREE TO VISIT

Scottish monastic architecture is unique and Kelso Abbey, is a prime and earliest example of style. It was one of Scotland’s largest and wealthiest religious houses. Founded by monks invited over by King David I in 1128

The abbey was founded by monks invited by King David I. Nothing remains of the actual monastery, but what remains of the church is considered to be one of the greatest architectural achievements in medieval Scotland.

The little burgh of Kelso is absolutely gorgeous, hence it is well worth the visit. If you’re interest in seeing absolutely everything on this road trip route, booking a place in or near Kelso would make a great middle point.

Photo Alert: Gorgeous photo ops at every turn

Parking Alert: Free parking in Kelso Town Center

Kid Alert: N/A

Toilets: At the visitor center

Additional Information: 

Next Destination: Dryburgh Abbey Drive Time: 20 minutes


6) Dryburgh Abbey – Dryburgh Abbey

St Boswells, Roxburghshire, TD6 6RQ

This abbey is a bit off the beaten path and not as popular with tourists. Hence why I like it so much. Found in a rather secluded forest. A wonderfully quiet and contemplative place. Established in 1150 by Premonstratensian canons in 1150. It is a lovely spot and worth the drive, since it is much less frequented by visitors than the other abbeys on this road trip route.

Photo Alert: Endless. Start looking for photo ops as you near the site.

Parking Alert: Small car park

Kid Alert: N/A

Next Destination: Melrose Abbey Drive Time: 20 minutes


7) Melrose Abbey – Melrose Abbey

Abbey St, Melrose TD6 9LG, UK

Not quite as obscure as some of the others on this journey. Yet right along the way and a really lovely place to have a look and see. A need to see if you are a Scottish history buff or a fan of romantic feeling architecture and lore.

Founded as a Cistercian monastery in 1136… and then the English … Rebuilt in the 1380s. Its active end came at the Protestant Reformation of 1560, the building is remarkably unmolested by the test of so very much time.

It is believed that the heart of Robert the Bruce’s is buried here. fabulous Medieval object collection in the Museum.

Photo Alert: Great photo ops

Sheep Alert: It’s the Borderlands expect sheep to show up anywhere and everywhere

Parking Alert: Pay and display public car park 75m from the abbey (Scottish Borders Council). On-road parking nearer the site. Free parking in Winter.

Kid Alert: N/A

Additional Information:  Watch your step. Steps into the castle are steep. This location can get quite busy

Toilets: At the visitor center

Next Destination: Traquair House Drive Time: 35 minutes


8) Innerleithen – Innerleithen

Innerleithen, a prominent golfing community and simply a lovely, if not quirky little town. Originally mostly an agricultural village. In the early 19th century, the sulphurous “healing” springs known as St Ronan’s Wells began drawing people to the area. The resulting Spa and Resort saw visitors such as Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. Scott helped to popularize Innerleithen with his novel Saint Ronan’s Well. As St Ronan’s Well’s popularity grew, the need for a golf club became obvious. St Ronan’s (golf) Club started in 1827 with the first St Ronan’s Border Games that continue to this very day. The Innerleithen Golf Club was formed in in 1886.

3 Wells BraeInnerleithen EH44 6JE

Quirky little visitor center offers information on Innerleithen history, as well as the story of the wells. Situated on a hillside, overlooking the Leithen valley with pleasant gardens.  Here you can sip from the well or purchase bottle of water its water.  An interesting stop for those that enjoy quirky, historic and quaint. I love the entire area.

Photo Alert: Plenty

Sheep Alert: any sheep in the area appear to be fenced

Parking Alert: Plenty of parking

Kid Alert: Kids may like this funky little place.

Next Destination:  Traquair House & Brewery Drive Time: 10 minutes

Traquair House the Scottish Borders Rootless Routes Scotland 2017
Traquair House, long connected to the Stuarts. Innerleithen Scottish Borders Scotland Rootless Routes

Visit Traquair House | Just Do It!

My entrance to Traquair House began with stumbling on completely unperilous rocks on a flat driveway, resulting in landing flat on the ground on top of my iPhone. I entered the grand historic property, covered in mud, with ripped knees, bleeding and clinging to my disemboweled iPhone. The staff were kind and in return helpful. They all seemed sincerely concerned about my well being, upon seeing my disheveled state.

Traquair House is the oldest still inhabited house in Scotland and I absolutely love this place. The drive through Innerleithen is… “Holy crap!” amazing. The roads tight, with high stone walls on either side, make it an interestingly challenging drive for US Americans.

The history of Traquair House, especially pertaining to the Stuarts (later the Stewarts) is just about as rich with Scottish history as it gets.  Lived in for over 900 years. (Gosh, 900 years? I’m American. We think older houses were built in the 1950s.) With a quirky and extremely knowledgeable staff that all love the house and its historical background. I spent hours chatting with various staff members about obscure historical facts with glee.

  • Traquair House History

Gifted to James Stewart in 1491, who became the 1st Laird of Traquair. The famous Bear Gates were closed in 1745 after the Bonnie Prince rode out and the 5th Earl promised him they would never be opened again until the Stuarts gained throne. Consequently, they were never opened again.

Catherine Maxwell Stuart continues to call this extraordinary place her home and her recorded revelries in some of the rooms are just fantastic. The brewery is well worth the visit as well. Do not miss this hidden gem. I’d move in, if they’d let me!

Photo Alert: Limitless photo ops

Parking Alert: Nplenty of well signed parking

Kid Alert: I think Kids will enjoy this.

Food: Cafe and Tea Room

Shops: Bought a great handmade celtic not ring here.

Toilets: Bathrooms on site

Additional Information: Self designed tour and guides on premises to answer questions are just awesome

Note: Maybe go to the brewery first so you have time to walk it off

Next Destination: Neidpath Castle Drive Time: 20 minutes



9) Neidpath Castle – Neidpath Castle

Tweeddale, on A72Peebles EH45 8NWNeidpath Castle

Mostly utilized for films or as a wedding venue, but luckily, they were setting up for an event when I drove up. I was permitted to look around, but did not meet the owner or get a tour. If you call the owner they will set up a private tour, which is likely well worth it. Sadly my camera battery had died and I had just crushed my iphone at Traquair House so I was unable to take photos. Picture courtesy of the Neidpath Castle site.

Photo Alert: Holy crap, this location is fantabulous. You can get great pictures of the castle from the hill across the way

Sheep Alert: I did not notice any

Parking Alert: There is a car park there

Kid Alert: It’s pretty cool, I think kids would enjoy it

Additional Information: 

Next Destination: Edinburgh Drive Time: 50 to 60 Minutes depending on traffic and where in Edinburgh you are headed.

10) Edinburgh – Edinburgh

Read more about visiting Edinburgh below!

Edinburgh Above & Below:

Less Touristy, Obscure & Free Things to Do & See in Scotland’s Capital

Walking Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle upon a bed of volcanic rock.! Photography by Elizabeth Whitener 2017 aka januarymoon.

End of trip

Isle of Skye | Scotland Road Trip | Scottish Highlands | NC500 | II

The Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye. Rootless Routes

Scotland Road Trip | Isle of Skye | Part II 

Isle of Skye road trip route itinerary. Total trip time, about 8 hours. Find everything you need to know for your Skye road trip and more, right here. Check out Part 1 here.

Isle of Skye Road Trip Route Itinerary Part 2 / Fairies in the Skye

  1. Skye Bridge
  2. Portree
  3. Fairy Glen
  4. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
    1. Seal Watching Tours
    2. Guided Tours
  5. Neist Point Lighthouse
  6. Fairy Pools
  7. Skye Bridge

    A Quick Note

    First read Driving On Skye – What To Know Before You Go prior to planning your Isle of Skye road trip.  Splendor on The Isle of Skye Scotland offers important general information about the Island.

    Times are approximate and vary based on individual needs. Both Isle of Skye road trip itineraries can be completed within a day, if you stick with the general timetable offered.

    A map is included at the end of this post. The letters indicated on each location, correspond to those on the map and the written directions.

    Although I did not travel Skye on my own, I am regularly a solo traveler. Everything on the itinerary is appropriate for solo travelers. The Island is friendly and safe (crime wise). It is not a good place to hike along public roads. You should have some sort of transportation planned ahead of time.

    GPS can be dodgy in the Scottish Highlands and even more so on Skye. It really is important to read the above mentioned “Driving On Skye” to help you best prepare and understand the key challenges to visiting and driving on the Island.


8 Fairy Filled Stops on The Isle of Skye

Note: Scheduling this route back to front (starting with The Fairy Pools, works out well too)

A] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

Take the Skye Bridge from Lochalsh. Once you’ve crossed the bridge onto the Isle of Skye, remain on A87 by taking the third (3) exit on the roundabout. After 32 miles you take a right onto Bridge Rd / A855.

Photo Alert: The lighthouse on the wee island of Eilean Bàn (White Island) below, is a particularly nice shot, as is the bridge itself. Best time for Skye Bridge photo opportunities is before you get onto the bridge.

Kid Alert: Check out the lighthouse on Eilean Ban as you cross the bridge.

Approximate time: 3 minutes

Toilet Alert: Main Rd, Broadford, Skye (about 10 minutes after the bridge) on A87 after the Cooperative, across from parking lot, next to church on right

Next Destination: Portree – Drive Time: 45 minutes


B] Village of Portree / Port Righ

Portree. An adorable fishing village. The ‘Capital’ of Skye. Portree is the only actual village on the Island. It can get very busy. Be prepared for that. It is difficult to find a sit down meal if you have not booked ahead here or anywhere on the Island. There are supermarkets, shops, petrol stations and restaurants. Portree is a lovely spot for photographs. The Visit Scotland visitor center is easy to locate.

Don’t dawdle. Enjoy it, but be on your way. You can come back later if you wish, it is not a huge detour on your way back after the Fairy Pools.

Photo Alert: About 15 minutes after Portree is where you will find some of the best views  (and shots) of the ‘Old Man of Storr” if you wish to get some decent pics along the way. Once past that point, you may not be able to see it well until you have hiked up to it., which is included in this route. Isle of Skye | Scotland Road Trip | Scottish Highlands | NC500 | I

Toilet Alert: 1) Bridge Road behind Somerland Square, across from courthouse 2) Off A87 at the Aros Center. You’ll find no toilets for a bit, so make haste and be smart.

Approximate Time: 30 minutes – Total Trip Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Next Destination: The Fairy Glen – Drive Time: 25 Minutes


C] The Fairy Glen / Gleann nan Sìthichean 

I adore the Fairy Glen . I spent two (2) hours romping about the alien like terrain, covered in a sea of vivid green grass and foliage. The Fairy Glen seems exactly the sort of magical landscape in which any respectable fairy would choose to dwell.

A land rife with superstition, folklore and legend. Located so near Dunvegan Castle, where an ancient “Fairy” flag is displayed with pride. It is ironic that the “Fairy Glen” is little connected with lore or superstition. It is no doubt magical to behold.

Tourists have mucked it up a bit with ridiculous stone circles, that local volunteers eradicate regularly. If you are moving rocks about in places like this, you are an asshole and the locals do not appreciate it. Neither do the visitors that are NOT assholes.

Great spot to picnic. No facilities, but there are some benches about.

Please do not utilize the Fairy Glen as your personal potty. The locals are really sick of it. Plan your bathroom breaks like a grown up ahead of time. Or give me your address and I’ll come pee on your lawn, see how you feel about it.

Photo Alert: Everything is fantastic opportunity for great photos at The Fairy Glen, but sweeping views from the top come out extraordinarily well.

Sheep Alert: Sheep roam freely on this road and during lambing season April – June. little sheep inexperienced with roads and frightened by cars are unpredictable. The sheep with horns get very protective when there are  lambs around.

Toilet Alert: There are public toilets at the Ferry terminal in Uig

Parking Alert: Parking is a pain. There are a couple of broad laybys on the way and a very rough small bit of extremely rocky spot of dirt right after the little pond on the left. Beyond that, it is difficult to park when the lot fills. If you are up for a little walk, you can park in Uig. 

Pothole Alert: Large jagged rocks and rough spots abound

Kid Alert: Kids will either love it or not care at all. There is a lot of space for them to run about. The hills are steep but rolling enough that there is not really any treacherous cliffs. This would be a great place to picnic and run off some steam, before locking them down in the car again.

Additional Information: If you pass the Fairy Glen (on your right) there is really nowhere to go but to turn around. You end up at a private croft. Please do not park anywhere but the obvious locations or in Uig. Do not use passing places as parking space.

Approximate Time: 1 hour – Total Trip Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Next Destination: Dunvegan Castle & Gardens Drive Time: 45 Minutes


D] Dunvegan Castle & Gardens  <–Click for website

 Dunvegan Castle. A privately run, magnificently beautiful destination. Full of history, lore, remarkable gardens and outstanding views. The McLeods have lived in this castle for centuries and continue to do so to this very day. Within the castle walls hangs the “Fairy Flag”

Chock full of history, Dunvegan Castle and Gardens still stands today. The McLeods chose to stay out of the last Jacobite Rebellion and in so doing, kept their amazing home. Ironically they ended up connected to Flora MacDonald and have items belonging to the Bonnie Prince. If such history is in your interest, it is really cool stuff to see.

This beautifully maintained castle is extremely significant when it comes to key points in Highland history. I found the place enthralling. The Gardens vast, diverse and extremely well tended. Loved every minute of my visit here.

Photo Alert: Photo opportunities everywhere. Check out the gardens and walk behind the castle to the edge of the waterfront. Fantastic photo opportunities. Mostly outside.

Sheep Alert: N/A

Toilet Alert: to the left just before you get the the actual castle (I believe there may also be toilets in the parking lot)

Parking Alert: Large, paved, well marked parking lot. Kinda comes up suddenly on your right. There is a gift shop and toilets in the parking area

Kid Alert: Some kids will find the castle boring. Lots of stuff not to touch. There is a special kids tour offered at the castle. I’d call ahead.

Approximate time: 40 minutes castle 40 gardens – Total Trip Time: 4 hours 50 minutes

Next Destination: Neist Point Lighthouse – Drive Time: 35 minutes


E] Neist Point Lighthouse (Glendale)

Neist Point . Stunning and picturesque. A remarkable location. If you enjoy remarkably scenic views, amazing photo opportunities, hiking, wildlife and/ or lighthouses, Neist Point is not to be missed. It is a bit out of the way and only offers views. It can get crazy busy there. You must be the  judge if it is worth it based on your desires. Fantastic photo opportunities.

Regarded the finest viewing point on Skye for dolphins, whales and even sharks. The area is a treasure trove for bird watching. If you are a birder check this out.

An fairly easy 15 minute walk from the car park, but the stairs down & back up to the point are pretty steep.

Photo Alert: Endless photo opportunities. If you head to the first hill to the right of the parking lot, you can quickly get good shots of the lighthouse without trecking out to the point.

Kid Alert: Good place for a picnic or snack.

Kid Warning: There are many steep drops and ungated cliffs. The sheep can be garrulous, especially in lamb season. Keep an eye on your kids.

Parking Alert: Parking is plentiful, but the car park fills up

Pothole Alert: If the lot is full, the extended area can be a bit rough for parking

Approximate time: 1 hour – Total Trip Time: 5 hours 25 minutes

Next Destination: Fairy Pools – Drive Time: 1 hour 5 minutes


F] The Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools are magical and  lauded place for hiking and wild swimming. This collection of naturally occuring watersheds, fed by a myriad of springs and waterfalls is  exceptional.

Located at the base of the Black Cuillins in Glen Brittle, near Carbost, Isle of Skye.

The site is well marked (well at least comparably) and more established for visitors. Fairy Pools “Glumagan na Sithichean” The extremely rough and rocky car park fills up quickly. There is no barrier to keep from backing up over the steep edge. At least there is signage.

Rootless Routes 2018 Isle of Skye road trip II
Glumagan na Sithichean Fairy Pools sign Isle of skye

Unlike the Fairy Glen, The Fairy Pools have a long history of Norse and / or Celtic fused Scottish lore connected to them. The mineral rich waters have been long known for their healing abilities. Similar to Clootie Well lore, the Fairy Pools luckily are not littered with offerings. No rotting rags hanging about.

The Fairy Pool, Isle of Skye. Rootless Routes. Scotland 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
Vibrant green pool of The Fairy Pools f Glen Brittle

Sadly most of the legends of the area were passed down through word of mouth in Gaelic and are either lost or not available for public consumption. None of my research brought forth any actual tales.

The hike down is easy enough for most. After a very long day the mildly steep incline at the very end with the sun beating down on me was kind of a bitch and there is nowhere to sit or get away from the sun to take a break. But for the most part anybody with average mobility can do the 40 minute walk there and back with relative ease

Photo Alert: Photo opportunities everywhere.

Sheep Alert: Sheep hop out from everywhere and tend to graze along the hiking trail. No, they are not tame, nor do they like being approached.

Toilet Alert:  (Pee before you get there)

Parking Alert: Fairly large car park / parking lot, graveled with large jagged rocks. The lot gets busy, people park randomly and at the very end of the lot, it is difficult to see where the land ends, so be careful. Use your parking break and skew your wheels.

Kid Alert: I think this much for real small kids, but a solid walker can do it. It does take an average adult 20 minutes to make it to the first pool and 20 minutes more to get to the last one.

Approximate time: 2 hours  Total Trip Time: 7 hours 30 minutes

Next Destination: Sky Bridge – Drive Time: 35 minutes


G] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

You’ve been here before. This road trip is complete.

Next Destination: Done – Drive Time: 8 hours 5 minutes


Useful Information:

  1. Southwest of the bridge is Balmacara, where you can find petrol and a well stocked Spar (convenience store / small grocer).
  2. Balmacara Hotel has a nice little pub like restaurant in the back (I did not eat there)
  3. The Clachan and The Dornie Hotel both serve great food, just a few minutes beyond Balmacara, in Dornie. Dornie is right across the way from the Eilean Donan Castle. Check their hours. Call ahead if you can. The Clachan serves food later and both places get packed at times.
  4. Eilean Donan Castle is just 15 minutes SW of the Skye Bridge. The castle is extremely photogenic with fantastic photo opportunities from the outside. When the castle is closed you can get great shots and the gate (although it looks locked) is often unlocked allowing visitors to cross the walkway to the castle.
  5. Dornie  is 15 minutes SW of the Skye Bridge. It’s a great but miniscule little village. There are a couple of shops  and restaurants there. Eilean Donan Castle is across the way.
  6. Plockton is about 18 minutes from the bridge and is a fantastic little village with gorgeous views and a few shops, pubs, inns and restaurants. It is a heckofa crazy one track road drive (I loved driving it). Itis a romantic spot. Well worth the visit! Note: The locals are impatient with slow drivers.

 

A] Sky Bridge

B] Portree

C] The Fairy Glen

D] Dunvegan Castle

E] Neist Point Lighthouse

F] Fairy Pools

 G] Sky Bridge

Skye Tours & Alternative Transportation  / (Scot owned and Scotland based)

Chas MacDonald of Spirit of Scotland offers various private and small group tours with a focus in Clan history, Clan gatherings, wildlife viewing, photography as well as personally curated themes of your choice. He also offers tours by More Gay the Gordon. A unique perspective with a like minded guide that delves into history of gay Scotland as well as LGBT exclusive tours.

Rabbie’s is a highly regarded small tour operator in business for over 20 years, that has maintained their top reputation even after becoming a rather large company.

You can find information on bus services to and on Skye here

Cycling routes and bike maps, in and around Skye.

Hiking routes maps and trails on Skye.

Traveling with kids?

Gay centric tours of Skye.

Isle of Skye | Scotland Road Trip | Scottish Highlands | NC500 | I

Isle of Skye road trip rootless routes 2018

Scotland Road Trip | Isle of Skye | Part I

Isle of Skye road trip itinerary. Total trip time is about 8 hours. Included in this itinerary are calculations on estimated spent time at each location, time to park, a quick bite and toilet breaks. Below are the locations included on the itinerary. You can check out Part 2 here, once it is posted.

Isle of Skye Road Trip Itinerary Part 1 / Flora and The Old Man

  1. Portree
  2. Old Man of Storr (Storr)
  3. Tobhta Uachdrach
  4. Kilt Rock
  5. Mealt Falls
    1. Staffin Dinosaur Museum
  6. Quiraing
  7. Duntulm Castle
  8. Skye Museum of Life
  9. Kilmuir Cemetery (Flora MacDonald)
  10. Portree
  11. Skye Bridge

A Quick Note

I suggest you read Driving On Skye – What To Know Before You Go prior to planning your Isle of Skye road trip.  Splendor on The Isle of Skye Scotland shares general information about the Island.

The approximate estimate on timing, is just that… approximate. Time spent on this journey will vary greatly based on individual likes and desires. Both Isle of Skye road trip itineraries can be completed within a day if you stick with the general timetable offered.

A map is included at the end of this post. The letters indicated on each location description, correspond to those on the map and the written directions.

Although I did not travel Skye on my own, I am regularly a solo traveler. Everything on the Isle of Skye road trip itinerary is totally appropriate for solo travelers. The Island is friendly and safe (crime wise). It is not a good place to hike along the public roads. You should have some sort of transportation planned.

GPS can be dodgy in the Scottish Highlands and even more so on Skye. It really is important to read the above mentioned “Driving On Skye” to help you best prepare and understand the key challenges to visiting and driving on the Island.


13 Magical Stops on the Isle of Skye

A] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

Take the Skye Bridge from Lochalsh. Once you’ve crossed the bridge onto the Isle of Skye, remain on A87 by taking the third (3) exit on the roundabout. After 32 miles you take a right onto Bridge Rd / A855.

Photo Alert: The lighthouse on the wee island of Eilean Bàn (White Island) below, is a particularly nice shot, as is the bridge itself. Best time for Skye Bridge photo opportunities is before you get onto the bridge.

Kid Alert: Check out the lighthouse on Eilean Ban as you cross the bridge.

Approximate time: 3 minutes

Toilet Alert: Main Rd, Broadford, Skye (about 10 minutes after the bridge) on A87 after the Cooperative, across from parking lot, next to church on right

Next Destination: Portree – Drive Time: 45 minutes


B] Village of Portree / Port Righ

Portree is a lovely spot for photographs, in addition there is a Visit Scotland visitor center too. This adorable fishing village claims to be the ‘Capital’ of Skye. It also claims to have everything you might need. That being said, everyone is likely going there for the same reason as you. It can get busy REALLY busy. It is usually quite difficult to find a sit down meal if you have not booked ahead. But there are supermarkets, shops, petrol stations and restaurants.

Don’t dawdle. Enjoy it, but be on your way. You can come back later if you wish, it is not a huge detour on your way back after the Fairy Pools.

Photo Alert: About 15 minutes after Portree is where you will find some of the best views  (and shots) of the ‘Old Man’. Once past that point, you may not be able to see it well until you have hiked up to it.

Toilet Alert: 1) Bridge Road behind Somerland Square, across from courthouse 2) Off A87 at the Aros Center

Approximate Time: 30 minutes – Total Trip Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Next Destination: Old Man of Storr – Drive Time: 10 Minutes


C] Old Man of Storr / Bodach an Stòr – The Storr / An Stòr

(not to be confused with The Old Man of Stoer in Sutherland)

Likely the most iconic location on the Isle of Skye, The Storr is a large pinnacle of jagged rocks precariously jutting from the mountain face including the “Old Man” of Storr. You will see it in the distance on your left when coming from Portree. The best place to take pictures of this unusual geological display is before you get there.

The path up to the The Storr is invigorating yet pretty easy, well marked with an obvious trail. It takes about 45 minutes up and 40 minutes down for adults in decent shape, if not lugging kids. I’d give it an hour if you are taking pictures, for you may need to stop and rest often or if you’ve got kids in tow.

Just go through the wooden gate at the end of the carpark. Click here for the Isle of Skye trail guide.

After hiking The Storr, perhaps it is time for a little snack and some photo opportunities. Please leave the Old Man of Storr parking lot to make room for others.

Parking Alert: The carpark fills up fast. (I told you to head out early and not to dawdle in Portree). Luckily, there are laybys along the road designed for overflow parking if need be.

Note: It takes almost exactly an hour to get to the Old Man of Storr car park from the Skye Bridge (if you decided to forgo Portree) and about 10 minutes from Portree. (6.6 miles)

Next Destination: Tobhta Uachdrach – Drive Time: 5 minutes

Approximate Time: 3 hours – Total Trip Time: 4 hours 30 minutes


D] Tobhta Uachdrach / Upper Ruins

Just about 3 miles up the road on the right is an amazing viewpoint. There are green areas on which to picnic, while viewing the breathtaking scenery before you. This location offers only a view, but it really should not be missed.

A couple of things to note. Many people camp here so it can be crowded. The parking lot can be riddled with holes and sharp stones jutting up.

Photo Alert: Endless photo opportunities, look all around and down, not just across the water. The sheep gate on the cliff is not locked. Be careful if you head out there. Make sure to close the gate behind you and when you leave.

Kid Alert: Good place for a picnic or snack.

Kid Warning: As mentioned above. the sheep gate that blocks entrance to the cliff is NOT locked. Keep an eye on your kids.

Parking Alert: Parking is plentiful

Pothole Alert: The parking lot is a nightmare, big holes, sharp protruding rocks, puddles.

Approximate Time: 15 Minutes – Total Trip Time: 4 hours 40 minutes

Next Destination: Kilt Rock – Drive Time: 7 minutes


E] Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls / Creag an Fheilidh & Eas Mealt

Keep heading North (right turn) on A855 for five (5) miles until you come to Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls on the right. The parking lot is ample but it fills up quickly.

You will see hear then see Mealt Falls  to your left. The magnificent sea cliff known as Kilt Rock is beyond the Falls in the distance. The vertical basalt columns that make up this unique cliff, looks like the pleats on a kilt.

Photo Alert: The views are truly lovely here. Make sure to walk all the way over to the right and circle about as well. If you face back towards the road from which you came, there are lovely shots of lonely houses in rolling hills

Sheep Alert: There are often sheep close to the fence here. They tend to be less camera shy than others.

Kid Alert: If you are traveling with small kids or are limited for time, this is the place I’d skip.

The Staffin Dinosaur Museum  <– (check their site on the link given) is open Easter to October and although small supposedly has a significant collection of dinosaur bones.

Approximate Time: 20 minutes – Total Trip Time: 5 hours 20 minutes

Next Destination: Quiraing – Drive Time: 10 minutes

Alternate Next Destination: Staffin Dinosaur Museum Drive Time: 1 minute

  1. Staffin Dinosaur Museum

     Staffin Dinosaur Museum was established by Dugald Ross over 40 years ago and he is       still there today. The museum includes specimens from Stegosaurus, Megalosaurus,   Cetiosaurus, Hadrosaurus, and Ceolophysis. They also offer tours of the infamously hard to find Staffin dinosaur footprints.

Mealt Rootless Routes Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye 2018
Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock Isle of Skye 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes

F] The Quiraing / A’ Chuith-Raing / Kví Rand / Round Fold

Continue north on A855 for 3 to 5 minutes to bring you upon the entrance to the Quiraing Road. It is a fairly hard left at a little white house. There was no Quiraing sign when I was there, just a sign warning that the road may not be accessible in bad weather. But yeah, that is it. There should be a Chuith-Rang sign, but I did not see it.

The Quiraing was created by Tertiary age lava rock crushing Jurassic age sedimentary rock below it for millenia, resulting in a massive and ongoing landslide. This alien landscape is jaw droppingly stunning. The most dramatic vistas of the Quiraing  are the Table, Needle, Prison, Dùn Dubh and the Old Man of Storr.

I found the drive disappointing and drab. The roads are not in good condition. Many of those driving it are really poor drivers. It was in no way the thrill many blogs claim it to be. The views are spectacular from the carpark and the many hiking points. The drive, not so much.

You enter near Staffin and exit near Uig, (NG386643) Lat : 57.593464 Lon : -6.373546) It can be steep and curvy and filled with sheep, but the biggest challenge for me was the huge holes in the road. It is nothing like the exhilarating Bealach Na Ba.

Photo Alert: Most of the best photo ops occur once you hit the car park or the other viewing points along the Quiraing Rd. Once you walk out to the viewing area, you will be awestruck. There are a few unmarked stopping points that will be obvious when you come upon them. They are usually there due to a good view of something or for a hiking point entrance.

Sheep Alert: Sheep roam freely on this road and during lambing season April – June. little sheep inexperienced with roads and frightened by cars are unpredictable.

Parking Alert: The carpark often gets jammed packed early and stays that way throughout the day. There is an obvious wide layby to the side of the lot for overflow, but that often fills up as well. Please park courteously and with other people in mind.

Kid Alert: Your kids may or may not appreciate the views. It’s already been a bit of some time in the car. Maybe a wee hike is in order? I am unsure driving the entire Quiraing route would be worth it if your kid/s are already edgy. I am not sure it is actually ever worth it.

Pothole Alert: The roads suck on the Quiraing. The potholes are deep enough to cause injury to your vehicle.

Approximate Time: 45 minutes (per stop) – Total Trip Time: 5 hours 35 minutes

Next Destination: Duntulm Castle – Drive Time: 25 minutes


G] Duntulm Castle / Dun Dhaibhidh

You cannot enter this absolute ruin of a castle. Without a lot of imagination it isn’t much to see. Yet it is a dramatic location rich with ancient history. Fortified in the Iron Age. 

Clan Douglas, the McLeods and the MacDonalds fought over the damned thing for hundreds of years. The MacDonalds abandoned it in the 1730s and built a new house using stone taken from the castle.  Untended in such an exposed location  for nearly 300 years has taken its toll. The main tower collapsed into the sea in the 1990’s.

Gorgeous location, fantastic drive.

Photo Alert: Endless photo opportunities. About 3 miles up the road on the right is another viewpoint, with grassy areas for a picnic. View from the Minch to the Isle of Lewis is breathtaking.

Kid Alert: Good place for a picnic or snack.

Kid Warning: The castle is very unstable. The cliff rocks are as well. Keep an eye on your kids.

Parking Alert: Keep your eye out for the small parking area before the castle.

Pothole Alert: Parking area is ok The walk to the castle is often wet and muddy.

Toilet Alert: There are no facilities until you get the the next stop

Approximate Time: 45 hour – Total Trip Time: 7 hours

Next Destination: Skye Museum of Island Life – Drive Time: 7 minutes


H] Skye Museum of Island Life

The museum offers visitors a unique experience and true insight into island life a 100 years ago. This award winning attraction is a must for all visitors to the beautiful Isle of Skye. A perfect place to end this day long journey.

Photo Alert: Beautiful location with wonderful views.

Kid Alert: Kids may enjoy this, even more than you

Approximate Time: 45 minutes – Total Trip Time: 8 hours

Next Destination: Portree Harbour – Drive Time: 40 minutes


I) Village of Portree / Port Righ

Since you’ve already been here, it is time to take a break. Now you have time to take in the view you missed while rushing to get to the Old Man of Storr earlier. It is another 45 minutes to the Skye Bridge.

Photo Alert: There are many lovely spots to take pictures of the colorful houses along the harbour as well as the harbour itself

Toilet Alert: 1) Bridge Road behind Somerland Square, across from courthouse 2) Off A87 at the Aros Center

Approximate Time: 15 minutes – Total Trip Time: 8 hours

Next Destination: Skye Bridge – Drive Time: 45 minutes


J] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

So you are back where you started. This road trip is complete.

Next Destination: Done – Drive Time: 8 hours 45 minutes

Driving On Skye – What To Know Before You Go

Uig Scotland Rootless Routes Scotland 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener
Uig Scotland Rootless Routes Scotland 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener
One track road at the Fairy Glen. Driving on Skye is not easy, but it is magical. Rootless Routes Scotland 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener

Should You Drive on Skye?

Driving on Skye is not for everyone. It can be more challenging than driving in other parts of rural Scotland. Although driving on Skye may be the easiest and possibly best way to tour this eilean, it is important to understand the semantics and expectations of taking on such a task. Knowing the challenges involved with driving on Skye before you get there and understanding that it may not be the best choice for you, is key.

If driving on the island stresses you out, makes you nervous and takes your focus away from best experiencing the trip, then what’s the point? It can put you and your travel companions, put others on the road in danger as well as diminish your experience. If you are not a confident left side of the road driver, you should not be driving on Skye or any part of Scotland.

Shocked Scottish sheep. Rootless Routes Scotland 2017 photo by Elizabeth Whitener
Sheep shocked by the dreadful driving skills of tourists driving on Skye. Scotland 2017 Arnisdale / Glenelg by Elizabeth Whitener Rootless routes

Me… I’m a driver. Give me a driving challenge and it is just as exciting to me as is the place I am visiting. Mastering the roads and learning to drive up to par with the locals, is as big an adventure for me as is the actual trip. I love to drive. LOVE IT! I much enjoyed driving on Skye. Yet it had its challenges. Many of which were the poorly driving tourists.

Navigating my way around without much assistance. Feeling as if I have not only taken in all of the new things around me, but have in some small way become a part of it. these tings heighten my travel experience. Driving in new places does not make me nervous, it invigorates me and in the end, I feel I have achieved something. As if I understand it better now that I can navigate it with confidence.

If you are hesitant on the roads in your country. Then driving on Skye is certainly not for you.

There are plenty of alternatives. Private tours, public transportation, smaller mini-coach tours. Or Heck, just call me. For the price of a plane ticket, food and a couple of adult beverages here and there, I’ll drive ya wherever and whenever you wish to go. (I’m not kidding either)

Scroll to the end of this post to find more information on tours and transportation alternative to driving on Skye yourself.

Mealt Rootless Routes Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye 2018
Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock Isle of Skye 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes

Skye is loaded with ethereal landscapes. Rich with history, teaming with waterfalls, wildlife, all  sprinkled with a fair amount of fairy dust. If you have decided you are indeed driving on Skye. The next step is to decide where to go.

When driving on Skye, a well pre-planned driving route is a must.  Skye is a very popular destination, it gets very busy. Yet it remains an extremely rural location.

Navigating rough, pothole ridden,steep, often unmarked roads is easier when prepared. Knowledge of what and where you plan to go and do, helps when navigating unfamiliar territory, and allows a better chance of taking in the views.


Preparing for and Understanding Driving On Skye

To get to the the Isle of Skye, you must first cross the Skye Bridge. This spits you out onto the one main road on Skye, A87. The second important road to remember is 855. Both of these roads vary from dual, to single track. Speed limits run around 60 MPH, unless right in the heart of a village then it decreases to 40, sometimes 30 MPH as is usually indicated. If a road is unmarked, the speed limit is usually 60 MPH.

Skye Bridge
The Skye Bridge Chas MacDonald of Spirit of Scotland

You are expected to to drive at the designated speed limit, even on winding single track roads (which as I said is usually 60 MPH).

Preload google maps while you have a good connection. SABRE maps is an interesting UK road mapping system that shows uncatagorized roads. Printing out pre planned routes from Google or SABRE Maps ahead of time, will aid you in finding uncategorized and remote roads even if your GPS is failing.

While driving Skye, I found almost every location with ease. I had a bit of difficulty with the Quiraing pass entrance (it is indeed uncategorized). I saw no sign saying Quiraing (at the time) just a warning sign about potential road conditions. Apparently there is a sign for the route on the other end of the pass.

I am in the process of posting two (2) full day driving routes for the Isle of Skye. These routes offer in depth locational information and should aid you in choosing your stops, and help get to each location safely, efficiently and stress free. You will find further information on these routes, below.


Before You Hit The Road for Skye

SCHEDULING:                                                                                                                                                          Leave early. Be on the island by 7am / 8am if possible. Car parks, roads and trails get insanely crowded. Stops nearest the bridge are unrestricted and always open, beyond dangerous weather conditions. Get them out of the way to beat the crowds. Obviously Castles and Museums have opening and closing times. The Quiraing viewpoint gets packed early. Leave yourself with ample time to enjoy your trip.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY:
Weather on the island is even more unpredictable than on the mainland. As well as colder and windier. Wear water resistant walking or hiking shoes / boots. Even ‘easy to access’ locations can be swampy, rocky and or muddy.  Bring extra clothes, and a hat. Wear sunscreen (even if there is no sun).

BE PREPARED: 
Fill up with petrol, utilize the toilets, make sure you have everything you need before you cross the bridge. It’s a bigger pain in the ass to get to or do any of these things once on the island and often much more expensive. You are advised to eat before you cross the bridge.

If you intend to eat out, I still suggest that you bring snacks and drinks in the car. Make reservations ahead of time.

Input all data into your GPS ahead of time. If you, can pre-download maps. Signal can be very dodgy on the island. Be careful there is The Old Man of Storr (yes!) and the Old Man of Stoer (No).

BE DILIGENT: Sheep roam freely all over the island and there are active hidden driveways and uncategorized roads around blind bends. This is an active rural community. You never know when you’ll rear a turn to find a stopped tractor on the road.

There also tends to be a lot of inexperienced drivers and stupid people walking in places they obviously should not be. Add to this cyclists, bikers, hikers, dog walkers and drunken young people and well… just be careful. See my video of the tourists wheeling luggage along the Quiraing Rd and you’ll get what I mean.

KNOW THE RULES & COURTESIES OF THE ROAD:                                                                                      Passing places are not just for those driving towards you, they are also there so that a slower driver can stop and let those stuck behind them pass.

Make sure you are confident enough to drive extremely narrow, single track, winding, roads that are in bad condition and have a lot of blind spots, at the recommended speed limit. Which is 60 MPH. Not 60 KPH, 60 MPH. This is so very important when driving Skye.

If you cannot drive with confidence at a reasonable speed, you likely should NOT be driving in Scotland, let alone driving Skye. It is actually considered more unsafe to drive under the speed limit there, since it causes great impatience with the locals (and ME), causing them take unreasonable risks to get around you (so that they can get to their destination on time).

Passing Places are NEVER parking spots, so DON’T DO IT! (yea, I am talking to you, the asshole on the convertible red BMW on the Bealach Na Ba last month). Here is more thorough information on Driving in Scotland by ZigZag on Earth


 Driving Routes for Isle of Skye

I have developed two (2) full day driving routes covering every amazing thing I could, given the hours in a day. These driving routes are coordinated to help you best maximize your time on Skye. The itineraries include 20 potential stops on the Island, offering alternatives for various needs, interests, as well as locations for toilet breaks, petrol etc… Make use of the destinations as mapped out on the itineraries, or adjust them according to your interests, time and needs.

(if the links below are not active, I have not completed the posts yet. They will be complete within 2 days of this post, if not earlier)

Isle of Skye Driving Route 1: The Flora and the Old Man in the Skye 

  1. Portree
  2. Old Man of Storr
  3. Tobhta Uachdrach
  4. Kilt Rock
    1. Mealt Falls
    2. Staffin Dinosaur Museum
  5. Quiraing
    1. Viewpoint
    2. Drive
  6. Duntulm Castle
    1. Flora MacDonalds Grave
  7. Skye Museum of Life

Isle of Skye Driving Route 2: Fairies & Lights in Skye

  1. Loch Ainort
  2. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
  3. Neist Point
    1. Neist Point Lighthouse
  4. Fairy Pools
    1. Coire na Creiche
  5. Eilean Ban
    1. Kyleakin Lighthouse
  6. Eilean Donan Castle (outside of Skye in Dornie)

Skye Tours, Information & Public Transportation / Scot owned Scotland based

Chas MacDonald of Spirit of Scotland offers various private and small group tours with a focus in Clan history, Clan gatherings, wildlife viewing, photography as well as personally curated themes of your choice. He also offers tours by More Gay the Gordon. A unique perspective with a like minded guide that delves into history of gay Scotland as well as LGBT exclusive tours.

Rabbie’s is a highly regarded small tour operator in business for over 20 years. This seasoned tour company has maintained their top reputation even after great growth.

You can find information on bus services to and on Skye here

Cycling routes and bike maps, in and around Skye.

Hiking routes maps and trails on Skye.

Traveling with kids?

Gay centric tours of Skye.

Splendor on The Isle of Skye Scotland

Waterfall at the Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes by Elizabeth Whitener

Isle of Skye Scotland 

An t-Eilean Sgitheanach / Eilean a’ Cheò

The Isle of Skye. Awash with astonishing scenery, enchanting locations and otherworldly landscapes. Skye also holds historic significance in the tumultuous story of the Highlands of Scotland.

Brimming with pure splendor. Packed into a mere 650 square miles of immutable space. Skye is quite simply a wonder.

Driving the magical island is truly a one of a kind experience. Staying there is simply brilliant.

Looking back on the Old Man of Storr
The Storr, taken from Tobhta Uachdrach view point. Isle of Skye Scotland Rootless Routes photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2018

The Island may be compact, but it is filled with resplendence.

And… don’t forget the fairies.

The Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye Scotland / Scottish Highlands Rootless Routes 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
The Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye Scotland / Scottish Highlands Rootless Routes 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
NC500 Fairy Pools Isle of Skye Scottish Highlands Scotland 2018 Rootless routes by Elizabeth Whitener
Fairy Pools / Glen Brittle / Carbost / Isle of Skye Scottish Highlands Scotland 2018 Rootless routes by Elizabeth Whitener

Skye’s deep connection to fairies, prehistoric archeology and geological anomalies is as entrenched in its heritage and lore, as is its formidable terrain. With such mystical vistas, it is no surprise that Skye is rich in ancient Norse, Celtic and Pagan lore.

Skye’s distinctive topographies are both lush and barren, contained and wild. A perfect analogy for much of Scotland and the Scottish Highlands. Historically, environmentally and geologically.

Abundant in wildlife, including Red Deer, Golden Eagles, Sea Eagles, Gannets, Seals, Whales, Puffins, Otters, Pine Marten and a large variety of birds. The Island offers much to do and see.

It is not difficult to imagine a fairy choosing the Isle of Skye as their home.

Dunvegan Castle Gardens holds the precious Fairy Flag Isle of Skye Rootless Routes 2018
Gorgeous falls at Dunvegan Castle Gardens. Isle of Skye Scotland Rootless Routes 2018 Elizabeth Whitener

Everybody Wants a Piece of Skye

Since the Norse stepped foot on this ethereal land thousands of years ago, the magic of the Island has been a fairly well kept secret. First savoured by the Brits, then by parts of Europe. This is no longer the case.

More than 600,000 vehicles cross the Sky Bridge / Crossing every year. Scotland’s boom in tourism is indeed taking its toll. Its effects can be seen on the environment as well as on the infrastructure. A common plight with which all of Scotland is now attempting to cope.

Isle of Skye puzzle piece like coastline. NC500 route. 2018 Rootless Routes
Water view from Tabhta Uachbrach view point. Rootless Routes 2018 Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye

An Enduring Skye

Yet unlike the ever unstable and inimical Quiraing, created by ancient rock crumbling beneath the weight of the invading rock above. The people of here remain warm, welcoming and unremitting. I imagine it is difficult to feel overcrowded with views like this.

The largest, northernmost, major island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Skye has been inhabited since the Mesolithic period. Much like the Orkneys, Skye’s ties run deep with early Norse occupation.

Fairy Glen NC500 Rootes of the Routless
The Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye Scotland / Scottish Highlands Rootless Routes 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
Dunvegan Castle NC500 Isle of Skye Rootless Routes 2018
Dunvegan Castle Home of the MacLeods Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes

The Powerful Clans of Skye

Skye’s legacy includes a lengthy ascendancy with Clan MacLeod and Clan MacDonald  and was greatly impacted by the final Jacobite uprising.  You can find Flora MacDonald’s grave site here, as well as fascinating relics of her history in Dunvegan Castle . This ancient fortress and home to Clan MacLeod, is a fantastic visit. I should know, I’ve visited a lot of Scottish Castles. And within the walls of antiquity, this formidable castle, that remains inhabited by MacLeods yet to this day is the prized Fairy Flag

Jacobite Connections

After the the failed rising and the tragic end at Culloden. Flora, dressed the Bonnie Prince in women’s clothing and helped to secret him away and out of Scotland. She is seen by many as a brave Jacobite heroine. Ironically she was not likely a jacobite at all, just a very sweet, nurturing woman who liked to help people. But regardless, she likely saved Prince Charles life and her connection to the Island of Skye runs deep.

Portrait of the Bonnie Prince

The resulting clearances that continued for over 100 years after the uprisings tragic end, resulted in a huge population decline on Skye, the effects of which are still keenly felt today.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye NC500 route
Fairy Glen sheep with an attitude problem Rootless Routes Isle of Skye 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener

Most of the land is still owned by those that do not live on the Island. The sheep farms are mostly (if not all) tenant run with little rights over the whims of the land owners. And although the island is teeming with tourists, much of that money does not find its way to the crumbling infrastructure, nor to the people that live there.

Wages on the island are lower than average and rents are much higher (so tip… yes you should indeed tip). Long term rentals are nearly non existent. Nonetheless, the people of Skye seem to maintain an indubitable spirit. As do their sheep.

Visit The Isle of Skye

It is well worth a full day, if not two, to explore this magical place. In fact, you certainly would not run out of things to do or see, if you spent an entire week there. Sky offers endless attractions for young and old alike.

If you are planning to visit Scotland, do not miss out on this stunning place. I suggest you do it soon. For even the most enduring of communities can only bare the weight of such a severely overburdened infrastructure and countryside, for just so long.

Routes for traveling this gorgeous little island will be added to RootlessRoutes very soon and then linked here.