We left Skye and headed towards Edinburgh in what turned out to be a very long day of driving but with some very unique scenery and points of interest along the way.
I am not an avid reader of the Harry Potter series but when I discovered that our route would take us through the Viaduct railway featured in the movie, I was very excited to find it and take pictures. We took what is called the coastal way which is a very scenic drive, albeit curvy and narrow at times. The Viaduct runs the Westhighland Lines connecting Ft. William and Mallaig and it runs regular passenger trains even though the real attraction is the summer running of the heritage Jacobite steam train, which is a very popular tourist attraction as the train is the same type as featured in the film.
The only accessible viewing location is a lovely spot by the Glenfinnan monument where you can take a 5 minute hike up to the top of a hill where the railway viaduct can be easily seen, backdropped by rolling hills. It’s truly a spectacular site. Wish we could have seen the train passing by but there’s no information on times. Nevertheless some people set up their cameras on tripods and settled to wait the train out.
The Monument at Glenfinnan is a tower on the shores of Loch Shiel where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard for the first time in support of the Jacobite upraising of 1745. The place is beautiful with the lake symmetrically framed by the surrounding hills. Interesting enough, more people where hiking to see the fictional Harry Potter viaduct than this truly important monument in the history of Scotland.
We still had a ways to go to Edinburgh but decided to drive through Glencoe, a longer route but we’ll worth the scenic views along the way. Since we were heading in a southeasterly direction we took a more adventurous route by getting off the A85 and taking the A828 which parallels Loch Linnhe. The A828 is a 21 mile single lane road that challenges the driver with herds of sheep crossing the road in many sections, farmers on their tractors and an occasional car coming the other way, but rewards the traveler with beautiful views of some of the Scottish back country. The A828 ends in Ballachulish were you take a ferry across the Loch and back on A82 where the road finally gets you to Glencoe. Glencoe is an alpine ski area with breathtaking views. One suggestion is plan for lunch or break before you head out of Glencoe as once you are back on the A82 there are very few services on this road until the next major town. We planned ahead ( because lunch is oh so important) and stopped at the visitor center and they pointed us to The Laroch Restaurant and Bar which was absolutely fabulous. The food was presented beautifully and I had a delicious pear and goat cheese salad and the best fish and chips I’ve had this entire trip!
We arrived in Edinburgh late in the afternoon just in time for rush hour traffic, so it was with great delight that we returned our rental car. One fabulous thing about traveling in Europe is the ease of use of public transportation and trains. Our hotel was very centric but nothing to write home about, but since we only had a full day in the city the location was important to us. Right across the street from the hotel we found a wonderful pub named The Conan Doyle, in honor of the famous creator of Sherlock Holmes who was native to Edinburgh. The city in fact has a lot of notable native born writers such as Robert Lewis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and many more. The location of the houses in which they lived where pointed out to us the next day on our hop on and off bus tour of the city, which I highly recommend if you have limited time and want to get a quick feel of the city.
The city is famous for Edinburgh castle which is perched high above the old section of the city and built on top of a 700 million year old extinct volcano called Castle Rock. It is a truly impressive fortress that dominates the skyline. We didn’t have time to tour the interior (3 hours recommended) but instead walked the medieval city around it where you can find a variety of unique shops and pubs.
The pubs in Edinburgh are wonderful, especially those around the grass market were we not only frequented a few, but also found a tasty little French restaurant for our one and only dinner in Edinburgh. Next time we will plan more time in this grand old Scottish city.