Via Oban and the Isle of Skye, this roundtrip tour from Edinburgh includes the rugged, unspoiled wilderness of Scotland's far north.
Rental car pick-up
Type: Ford Focus 1,6 or similar
Pick-up location: Edinburgh, Airport
The designer guest house located between Appin and Oban on the west coast affords unparalleled views of Loch Linnhe. The eight, individually decorated rooms have jacuzzi baths, underfloor heating and large panoramic-view windows. The day starts out with a healthy, hearty breakfast: smoked fish or sweet pancakes provide a delicious alternative to the usual ham and eggs fare. Excursions can be arranged to the islands of Iona and Staffa, once a source of inspiration for the German composer Felix Mendelssohn.
For dinner the hosts recommend the Eriska Hotel which also features a golf course and a spa. Reservations need to be made at the time of booking.
The host Sean O'Byrne is world champion in traditional longbowarchery. Anyone who wants to try this historic discipline of the ScottishHighlands can book a lesson through Umfulana (35, - GBP per person - advancebooking required).
Road of the Isles
By land: 80 miles Travel time: 2:00 h
Ferry: Skye - Uist
The stone house was built in the 19th century by the Church of Scotland for the local parson. The property changed hands in the 1930s and since then has served as a private home. It is set in a large, walled garden on the edge of Portree overlooking a group of small islands in the bay. The current owners, Don and Margaret, purchased the neglected property in 2005 and turned it into the gem it is today. The five guest rooms with oversized bathrooms are on the first floor. The guests meet the hosts for tea or sherry in the cosy lounge with its oak floor and open fireplace. Don and Margaret will gladly provide suggestions for local activities and day trips. The protected garden in the courtyard is an excellent place to unwind from the rigors of sightseeing.
More than anything else, the largest island in the Inner Hebrides offers 639 square miles of pristine nature: rugged mountains, green valleys, caves, glens, crystal clear waterfalls and out-of-the-way beaches. Otters and seals feed on the salmon and trout that populate the island's unpolluted waters. The over 200 species of birds native to the area include endangered species like the golden eagle and the northern gannet. Skye is also known as the source of one of Scotland's best malt whiskies. The island has not always been a peaceful place. Under Bonnie Prince Charles, a descent of Maria Stuart, it was the focal point of a power struggle between the Scots and the English. A bridge connecting Skye to the mainland was constructed in 1995. Those who desire even greater remoteness can take a ferry from Uig to the Outer Hebrides, where they will find nothing but sheep, cliffs and wind.
The inn stands on Braes Hill about a mile from the centre of Ullapool. The elevated position affords a tremendous view of the surrounding landscape. The bright, cheerful bedrooms each have their own views extending to Loch Broom and its mountain backdrop. The location is ideal for exploring Wester Ross, one of the last wilderness areas still existing in Europe, whether on foot, by bicycle or in a boot. Marked hiking paths, good restaurants and a heated swimming pool are all available in the vicinity.
The picturesque, west-coast fishing village with around 1,000 inhabitants is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland. It is situated on the shore of Loch Broom, a beautiful lake featured in several paintings by expressionist artist Oskar Kakoschka. Wonderful day trips can be made from Ullapool through the striking countryside to such sites as Loch Assynt or to the romantic mountain landscapes south of the Kirkaig Waterfalls. Those willing to drive a little farther can even reach Cape Wrath at the northwest point of Scotland. Just 20 miles south of Ullapool is the spectacular Corrieshalloch Gorge, a deep ravine cut out by waterfalls.
Completed in 2010, the family-run inn sits on a farm near Durness with uninhibited views of the cliffs of Cape Wrath. Each of the modern rooms was individually decorated. Hiking paths lead straight from the property over hill and dale to the coast. The best thing about the B&B, however, is the sincere Scottish hospitality of its hosts, who strive to ensure that every guest's stay in pleasant from start to finish. A restaurant is a few minutes' walk away.
The sparsely populated county in Scotland's far northwest is only accessible by one-lane roads. The main attractions near Durness include Smoo Cave with its underground waterfall and the region's unspoiled beaches and steep cliffs, from which numerous species of seabirds, sea lions and occasionally even whales can be observed.
A few km northwest of Durness is Cape Wrath, the northwest point of the British mainland. The cape is only accessible on foot or by taking a ferry across the Kyle of Durness (15 minutes) followed by a shuttle bus trip to the point (30 minutes). Balnakeil, a former military base two km south of Durness, is now a community of craftsmen and artists. The village also has an ancient cemetery and the ruins of a 17th century chapel next to the tombstone of highwayman Donald Macmurchow, who repented after killing 18 people and paid for the construction of the chapel.
Host Rosemarie has been running the elegant B&B for over 16 years. The secluded property is situated on rich farmland east of Inverness just a few miles from the sea. The rooms are decorated with antique furniture handed down in Rosemariefamily through generations. The excellent meals are made using fresh herbs and vegetables grown on the farm. All room overlook the lovely grounds and Moray landscape beyond.
The lake, which is actually a fjord, is situated in one of the most scenic regions of the British Isles. The second largest lake in Scotland is the biggest body of fresh water in Britain owing to its incredible depth of over 800 feet. The lake is part of the 60 miles long Caledonian Canal, which bisects the Highlands from north to south and joins the four lakes created by the Great Glen geological fault. The man-made sections of the canal were built in the early 19th century. Of course, Loch Ness is less known for its sublime beauty than for the legendary monster of the same name, which was first sighted by the Irish missionary St. Columba in the 6th century, then disappeared for hundreds of years before suddenly reappearing in 1933. Two extensive exhibitions can be found in the nearby town of Drumnadrochit, which provide some useful information on the geological history of the region in addition to a large supply of knickknacks.
This listed farm house was built in 1762 by the ancestors of the present owner. Forest with deer, birds chirping and tranquillity surround the rural idyll. Those who enter the prestigious stone house will be met by the stern glances of the ancestors of the McCombie family in the impressive galleried entrance hall. All the more friendly are the hosts who make every effort to make their guests happy. Veronica is a trained Cordon Bleu chef, which is reflected in both breakfast and dinner. The house in the heart of Aberdeenshire is ideally located for exploring the surrounding castles, gardens, and whiskey distilleries.
The Grampians west of Aberdeen contain some of Scotland's most picturesque castles, eleven of which are connected by the Castle Trail. Most of the structures were built in the 13th century, a period when Scottish lords began to fortify their settlements under the influence of the Normans. The castles have been renovated numerous times through the centuries in response to the changed living conditions of the nobility. The imposing fortresses are surrounded by equally majestic landscapes. The moors and remote, grassy hills of the Highlands are the perfect breeding grounds for legends involving ghosts and other supernatural occurrences. Travellers who have had their fill of castles can switch to the Whisky Trail, which leads to several renowned distilleries.
Rental car drop off
Drop off location: Edinburgh, Downtown
Pippa and Hugh Lockhart are the hosts of ths small B&B with just 3 guest rooms located in the noble London Street in Edinburgh's historical New Town district. The hosts are descendants of Gibson Lockhart, the famous biographer of writer Sir Walter Scott. Accordingly, their elegant residence is decorated with antiques and portraits of one of the oldest families in the Scottish Lowlands.
Scotland's capital is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A burgh is said to have stood on Castle Rock - which offers the best view of the city - since the 7th century. Walls were erected around the town in the shadow of the fortress following bloody and disastrous clashes with England. The medieval plan and narrow winding streets of the Old Town once protected by those walls have been preserved. The area called New Town was created in the 18th century to relieve crowding in the rapidly growing city. With its rigidly ordered grid New Town was considered the epitome of rational urban development during the period of Enlightenment. The main shopping street today is Princess Street, which is lined with shops, galleries and museums. The cultural capital of Scotland is often referred to as the Athens of the North. The city's political history was defined by the rivalry with England. Edinburgh is now once again the seat of the Scottish Parliament.
Rental car company: AVIS (United Kingdom)
Type: Ford Focus 1.6 or similar.
5 doors, AC/CD