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

Outlander & the NC500 The End of Unexplored Scotland?

Devils Pulpit aka Finnich Glen 2018 by Rootless Routes NC500 Stirlingshire Undiscovered Scotland

I’m not Scottish.  In fact, it is likely not a single drop of Scottish blood runs through my veins. Yet Scotland calls to me. For this reason, I’ve been exploring Scotland for quite some time now. Especially the more remote parts of Scotland.

St Andrews Cross, Saltire
Scottish Flag. A flag of blue and white

Since I’ve had this love for Scotland for most of my life, I’ve been gobbing on about it and its wonders for years. As many times I have visited Scotland, I never tire of it. Yet inevitably my friends certainly get sick of hearing about it.

My Scotland?

So there I was…. sharing my love for Scotland, with the completely disinterested. Researching Scotland’s history as if it were of my own and visiting Scotland whenever possible. Accordingly, regaling friends with tales of of my Scottish travels. Reveling in the bits of unexplored terrain as I found them. Heartbroken over the challenges this country has enduringly had to face. Subsequently, I’d mention Scotland a lot. But for the most part, nobody cared!

Then it happened. First the Outlander series, then the creation of the NC500 tourist route. As a result, suddenly everybody loved Scotland too.

This led to a completely new reaction to my Scottish musings. Now when I’d mention Scotland, people got excited and to be sure,  everybody wanted to listen. Finally my friends took note of Scotland’s beauty. Undoubtedly it was Outlander & the NC500  that drove public interest to new levels  of interest and for that reason, Scottish tourism began booming.

Edinburgh Castle Interior Clock Tower Far from an Unexplored Scotland
Edinburgh Castle Clock Tower 2017 Elizabeth Whitener Rootless Routes

Beyond Loch Ness and the Loch Ness Monster, Loch Lomond, tartans, kilts, haggis and bagpipes, it seemed most people in the US knew little about Scotland, if it was not a part of their ancestry. But on account of Scotland’s new found popularity, that was no longer the case.

Royal Mile bagpiper, Edinburgh Photo by Elizabeth Whitener Rootless Routes Unexplored Scotland
Bagpiper in Edinburgh 2017 Picture by Elizabeth Whitener RootlessRoutes

I was happy that now people was seeing what I saw. But also, somehow Scotland wasn’t mine any more. Not that it really ever was.

Haggis for breakfast, Orkney Scotland
Yummy fresh made haggis with breakfast at Highland House BnB in Kirkwall Scotland Orkney Rootless Routes

NOT MY SCOTLAND

In consequence to its new found popularity, all one hears on travel blogs, in magazines, across the interwebs and beyond, are the praises about the magical land of Scotland. My Scotland. My unexplored Scotland. The proud and beautiful land with the flag of white and blue.

It’s like when the world discovers your favorite band. You are happy for the band but also feel cheated in some way. The band becomes no longer unique to you. You in no way aided them in their success. Your only connection was a love for their music. Happy for their success, yet you still somehow feel cheated. A need to mourn the loss of something unique to you in some way.

I am well aware that Scotland was never mine. I’m not even a Scot… And none of it is actually unexplored. Yet as the world awoke to the beauties of Scotland, I felt that a road trip was in order immediately!

My Scotland Road Trips / 5000 Miles of Scotland

That road trip turned into two (2), one (1) month long trips across, around and through Scotland. Covering both the well known and the most unexplored Scotland bits. One in Fall, the other in Spring. I learned a lot from these trips. I shall do my best to share the experiences that ensued.

But this post is about the result of all of this tourism. Tourism on a land that in many places that has remained (or been forced into remaining) simple and remote. A land that has never seen, and seems in no way ready for the masses appearing on their shores from day to day. And in result, the bits often referred to as unexplored Scotland, or hidden Scotland, obscure Scotland… become less and less obscure.

highland roadway near Glenelg Scotland
Single track ‘Passing Place’ along the NC500 route between Glenelg and Applecross and the tail end of my Mitsubishi Outlander Rootless Routes

OUTLANDER & THE NC500

It appears that Scotland’s sudden and well deserved boon came from a perfect combination of the popularity of Outlander & the NC500 craze, aided by the surge in travel in general.

The popularity of travel blogs added to the sudden mass realization of Scotland’s largely unappreciated, infinite and unique beauty.

Many Scots never saw it coming. Most of them had never even heard of Outlander (or Cross Stitch) until recently. They were unaware that Outlander romanticized the countries beauty and passion in such an idolized way, that soon crazy tourists would be blocking roads, stopping traffic to photograph sheep and cows, climbing into ancient dangerous holes, building campfires in the middle of Neolithic stone circles, driving poorly and with no understanding of the rules of the road and camping on private property. Unexplored Scotland was getting pretty damned well explored and exploited.

Visit Scotland’s “Scotland is now” ad campaign helms this Scottish tourism assault. Scotland is seemingly now on the tip of everyone’s tongue and it is also now teaming with tourists.

Atlas Obscura, Undiscovered Scotland, Culture trip, (my favorite travel source), Rough Guides, NC500. All great publications that hype the undiscovered and unexplored Scotland bits. But when everybody knows of the unexplored, how long can these places remain so?

Royal Mile Edinburgh 2018
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile off season. Elizabeth Whitener 2018 Rootless Routes

Scotland became a hot commodity overnight and I hadn’t even driven it yet.

DSC00273
Dunnottar Castle. A true 16th century courtyard castle. Stonehaven Aberdeenshire. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2017 Rootless Routes

CASTLES CASTLES CASTLES and the BEALACH NA BA

Endless hiking, free camping, invigorating roadways, stunning vistas, otherworldly mountain ranges, all appreciated by driving and riding aficionados alike. Motorbikes, bicycles and hikers love the roads and paths of Scotland equally…  and don’t forget the castles. The endless array of castles. 

I drove every coast of this magnificent place and even after traveling a great deal of this planet, I must say… Scotland is truly magnificent. Both the explored and the unexplored Scotland.

But for me and likely for many, part of its magnificence comes from its remoteness.

How does Scotland maintain its most beautiful locations integrity, if they become no longer remote?

Kildrummy Castle Ruins 2017 by Rootless Routes
Kildrummy Castle – 13th Century ruin – photo by Elizabeth Whitener Kildrummy Scotland 2017 Rootless Routes
Craigievar Castle (tower house)
Craigievar Castle (tower house). Is a pink harled structure near Alford, Aberdeenshire Scotland. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon 2017 Rootless Routes
Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire Scotland Rootless Routes
Castle Fraser. 1636 preserved Z plan Tower House. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener, Inverurie Scotland, Aberdeenshire 2017 Rootless Routes
SCOTLAND: THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD

Voted in the top most welcoming, as well as the #1 most beautiful country in the world in 2017, Scotland has long been high on the scale for offering many wonderful things, yet it remained a bit obscure as a major tourist attraction even through the 1990s when the first Outlander book, known as Cross Stitch in the UK, exploded in the US.

Outlander book cover. by Diana Gabaldon 1991
First edition Outlander book cover from 1991.

UNEXPLORED SCOTLAND

The more obscure, less explored places in Scotland touted online by so many travel blogs or in any way connected to Outlander, nowadays tends to be pretty damned well explored, no matter how remote. Some completely trampled on and in dire need for some sort of control by county officials, but amazing places to visit nevertheless.

I set out to discover if any of the “unexplored” still existed in this proud and enduring land and… I found it. But it isn’t just me and my tiny little unread blog that know of these places.

Soon they will be amongst the amazing places known as undiscovered, but are actually quite frequented by many, and often left to an disturbingly unknown fate.

THE DEVIL’S PULPIT – FINNICH GLEN

The Devils Pulpit aka Finnich Glen. This stunning and dangerous location, that has been here for millennia, is a perfect example of the plight of some these beautiful spots when overexposed and under maintained.

The best way to find it nowadays, is to follow the illegally parked cars and the trail of discarded socks.

Visiting the sight left me with very mixed emotions about Scotland’s new found popularity, even if my experience there was truly fantastic! For others the experience has not been quite as rewarding, as described in The Scottish Sun Outland-ish Behaviour.

The Devils Pulpit Finnich Glen as seen on Outlander
The Devils Pulpit. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2018 Rootless Routes

Climbing down into the Devils Pulpit is far more difficult and dangerous than many are led to believe. Apparently this place was highlighted in an Outlander episode, so now it is overrun with visitors.

Due to this new found interest, there have been numerous rescues from the site. Similarly numerous injuries have been reported and the steps, although they look like real steps at the top, are practically non existent just a few feet into the 70 foot climb down.

With no true car park or parking spaces specified, most park in a small public lot down the road. The local road is skinny, winding, quite busy and maintains a speed limit of 60 MPH, making it dangerous to park or walk on.

Since The Devils Pulpit was an Outlander location, as well as in the new movie King Arthur, the place is packed with people. Consequently it has become hazardous  nd apparently the perfect place to toss litter and wet socks.

I am quite certain the Stirlingshire council will do something about this soon. But this gorgeous place (that needs to be preserved) is the perfect example of how unready Scotland is for some of the insanity that the Outlander & the NC500 hype has created in their wake.

THE FAIRY GLEN UIG / PORTREE ISLE OF SKYE

The Fairy Glen, a magical place in Uig Skye is more remote. Not a particularly dangerous spot like the Devils Pulpit. Yet parking is scarce, not well signed and huge busses roll up right to the main curve, trampling the ground, often blocking the way for anyone to pass, and freaking out the sheep.

The Isle of Skye is so overwhelmed by tourists in Summer, that the police have been forced to make it illegal to visit the island without a hotel reservation.

Small, windy, poorly lit, pothole filled roads become jam packed with tourists both on foot, cycles, motorbikes and RVs.

Young people hanging out with no place to go, and no way to get around, walk alongside extremely perilous roads. Tragically a young girl was killed hitchhiking there last year. She is likely not the first, nor the last.

The Quiraing, amazingly was packed with RVs when I was there and bizarrely,  3 young Japanese tourists were walking along the edge, wheeling their luggage along some of the most dangerous parts of the Quiraing roadway, as cars, cows, sheep and cyclists rode by. (I have it on video)

Yet the Fairy Glen is a fantastical place to visit and free (for the time being). You could spend hours there, just walking, photographing and enjoying the unusual terrain. No place like it on the planet.

Fairy Glen Unexplored Scotland Uig
The Fairy Glen Isle of Skye Uig / Portree Scotland 2018 Elizabeth Whitener Rootless Routes

THE STANDING STONES OF STENNESS

itener Unexplored Scotland” src=”https://rootlessroutes.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/dsc00763-2.jpg” alt=”Stone Circle Orkney Scotland by Rootless Routes Unexplored Scotland” width=”760″ height=”640″ /> Standing Stones of Stenness Orkney Scotland Neolithic Stone Circle 2017 by Rootless Routes[/caption]
It was not until late in 2014, when the Outlander TV series rocked the US market and pushed the

It was not until late in 2014, when the Outlander TV series rocked the US market and pushed the Starz network into an unexpected new realm. The NC500 came shortly behind it creating the Outlander & NC500 tourism phenomena we see today. Both hold a significant role in boosting interest not only in Scotland, but of Scotlands Neolithic sites as well.

Outlander significantly boosted the interest in Scotland’s many standing stones and the NC500 helped to bring the traffic to these extremely remote locations

Orkney, a place so remote to Scotland, that some of those from there barely consider themselves Scottish. Now plagued with unprecedented traffic, the older locals look quite literally terrified at times and neolithic relics are getting trampled underfoot.

Standing Stones of Stenness. Orkney Scotland by Rootless routes, Elizabeth Whitener 2017

INVERNESS

As tourism soars, so does the economy. A much needed and appreciated boost indeed, especially in the highlands and the Islands. But with this came the blogging (just like I am doing here) and lesser known, unexplored Scotland bits started to see more and more visitors.

Even Inverness took awhile to boom, the self proclaimed capital of the Highlands continued to struggle with economic strife, until Claire and Jamie road through town and things changed quickly.

If visiting Inverness, remember that it is slowly growing to meet the tourism demands. Book a place to stay well in advance. Make reservations to eat ALWAYS. And please be kind to the grounds of Culloden. Many of the locals are already devastated over building that will soon go on near sights considered to be sacred.

Flora MacDonald Inverness Castle
Flora MacDonald statue in front of Inverness Castle. The heroine of the Jacobites, even if she may not have been a Jacobite herself.

Due to the surge in tourism, finding bits of Scotland that are less travelled or unexplored has become quite difficult these days. There is a variation of a similar saying that I heard locals proclaim while visiting the Highlands. It went something like “We were always here, you just now noticed us.”

FINDING UNEXPLORED SCOTLAND

In sharing all of the above, I actually was able to find some more remote and less explored fantastic locations, aka unexplored things to see and do in Scotland.

The surge in tourism has actually brought forth finances to renovate, restore and revive sites that had been neglected, ignored, even forgotten for centuries.

Many from the list below have benefitted from this bounty. I will add information to finding and visiting each of these locations and then link each post to the list below as my posts are complete.

I am also preparing routes that you can follow that will help you visit many of these sites in a single day with ample time to enjoy each one, catch lunch and return to where you are staying to relax for the night and prepare for your next days journey.

Castle Advreck - Lock Assent
Castle Ardvreck – Lock Assent

Ardvreck – Loch Assynt

RootlessRoutes 2018
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe by RootlessRoutes 2018 Scottish Highlands Sutherland Scotland
Ruins of Castle Varrich truly a part of Unexplored Scotland
Tongue Scotland 2018 by Rootless Routes Castle Varrich

Castle Varrich – Tongue

Portencross Castle Ayrshire 2018 RootlessRoutes
Portencross Castle Ayrshire / West Kilbide 2018 RootlessRoutes by Elizabeth Whitener

Portencross Castle – West Kilbride

Dundonald Castle RootlessRoutes 2018
Dundonald Castle RootlessRoutes 2018 South Ayrshire

DunDonald Castle – South Ayrshire

Wariston Cemetery Edinburgh 2018
Warriston Cemetery Edinburgh 2018

Warriston Cemetery – Edinburgh – Victorian Cemetery recently being lovingly restored by Friends of Warriston Cemetery a local group

Visit Scotland

In brief, do not hesitate to visit any part of Scotland. Just be conscientious and conscious of your surroundings and by all means, enjoy! Understand that people live here and love their home. Be vigilant, careful and respectful to the Earth, the animals (both tame and wild) and the people.

Do not park in passing places or block anyone’s path. Learn about the rules of the road ahead of time and follow them.

If driving on the other side of the road makes you nervous, don’t do it! Find alternative transportation. The speed limit on most of these back roads is 60 MPH and if you can’t drive that fast, let others pass you or simply do not drive. The locals have jobs and appointments and visitors need to be sensitive to these things.

Be smart and well prepared, be kind, take your trash with you (even wet socks) and enjoy beautiful Scotland.

After all what’s mine is yours.