A week in Scotland

Jun 14th, 2010, 08:48 AM
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A week in Scotland

I've had many requests (well two anyway) to put this trip report on here, as there are those who are thinking about a Scottish trip themselves. We are two couples, Lynn and I and long time friends, Maggie & Jim. They are both Scottish from Glasgow originally, but now live in Lancashire close to us. We've had a number of holidays together and enjoy each others company and we all enjoy travelling and good food. This is a road trip in Maggie's Honda CRV, which took all four of us with luggage easily.

Day 1 Left home at around 08:00 and headed North up the M65 & M6. We're aiming to stop in the borders to have coffee with Jim's sister and her husband who live near Dumfries. After a brief visit, we press on to Inveraray and the Argyll Hotel.

We by-passed Glasgow and picked up the A82 heading North, stoppinmg for lunch at a hotel/pub at Luss on Loch Lomond, but fairly forgettable food, soup and a sandwich. Lots of prepacked soup and sandwich fillings!

Continued up beyond Tarbet and then picked up the A83 towards Inveraray. The countryside is very pleasant with high hills and lots of water. The game of "What's that Loch called" started today. We pass through the quaintly named "Rest and be Thankful" and arrive at Inveraray on the shores of Loch Fyne at about 15:00. We check in and dump the bags, as there's no need to unpack for one night. We wander out in the intermittent light rain and visit the jail, well worth seeing. We don't have time to visit the castle or museum. We settle for a wander round the town, looking for a restaurant for tonight. Jim has sorted out his preferred choice, but they won't take bookings for tonight, as they have a "do" on. So rather than take a chance, we decide to eat in the hotel and stroll back and book. The food turns out to be excellent and breakfast is too.

Day 2 We're heading up to Oban today and leave the hotel in glorious sunshine to head North again. We stop at Cruachan Power Station, built into the mountainside at Loch Awe. What a fantastic feat of engineering. You go in to the mountain in a bus and see the turbine hall etc. well worth a visit. Our Oban destination is to catch the ferry to Mull for a three night stay at 14:00. We arrive in Oban at 11:30 and park and take a wander round the town. After a good breakfast, no-one is really hungry and in any case ,we have to be at the ferry for 13;30. I buy some sunglasses, as I forgotten mine-they're in my car! Oban is not pretty, but is at the end of the Glasgow rail link and is a really busy ferry terminal. We take the car up to McCaig's Tower, a folly on the hill overlooking the town The sun is warm and great views over Oban.

Back down to the port and into the queue for the ferry. Talk about prompt! These Caledonian McBrain ferries run like clockwork. 14:40 and we're docking at Craignure on Mull for the run up the coast to Tobermory. This takes about 30 minutes, on single lane roads and then single track roads with passing places, along the Sound of Mull. Tobermory is a small picturesque place, with coloured houses along the harbour, mainly hotels, pubs, shops and the odd restaurant. We pull in directly in front of the Tobermory Hotel
and check in for three nights. Our room is very small but overlooks the harbour and the sun is still "cracking the flags".

After unpacking (it's worth it for 3 nights) we wander up the harbour, the sea on our right and are at the other end in about ten minutes. We find one of Jim's restaurant choices and book a table for 20:00 at the Mishnish, next to the Pub of the same name. We walk back round the harbbour to the Harbour Centre and settle in the sunshine for a drink and a crossword outside the pub. Very pleasant to sit outside in weather like this. Had two beers. Back to the hotel for shave, shampoo, shower etc. and then up to the Mishnish for dinner. Lovely fresh seafood and local produce, but they're new in these premises and the service was a bit haphazard. However, we ordered another bottle of wine to compensate. Cosmopolitan dining companions from about 5 countries, from what we could make out. After Lynn had splattered bits of langoustine round the place, we wandered back to the hotel for a nightcap and bed.

Day 3 Another warm and sunny day, shorts on! We've got ferry bookings to go to Iona today and leave just after 09:00 to get to Fionnphort for a 10:30 ferry. Fionnphort is right at the far end of Mull through lovely scenery, most of the way on single track road. We must get stuck behind every tractor and slow moving vehicle on Mull and arrive at 10:28. We park quickly (no cars on iona except residents and service vehicles) and run round the corner to the ferry. It's still on the slipway and we make it with seconds to spare. It's only a 10 minute crossing, but the next ferry isn't until nearly noon, so much relief. We're quickly disembarking and walk to the right and follow the track to the end of the island, just before which we turn left onto a fantastic white sand beach. Paddling our feet, we walk on to just about as far as we can go and then have a rocky seat and contemplate life, the universe and everything.

Reluctantly coming away from this idyllic spot, we visit the Abbey, the Pottery/Art shop and head for the St Columba hotel for lunch. Soup and a large shared cheese board. Jim and Maggie have been to Iona before and enjoy showing us the sights, not just here but all through the trip. It makes it easier for Lynn and I and Jim enjoys the task (he says). By now, it's around 15:15 and we walk back to the slipway for the return ferry. Back across to Mull and a leisurely drive back to Tobermory.

The scenery on Mull is gorgeous, with mountains and lochs and lovely beaches. Back in Tobermory, we're eating in the hotel tonight, which has a good reputation for food. We pop upto the Mishnish pub for a drink and a "mull" over the day. The food at the hotel is good and enjoy a good dinner.

Day 4 After a breakfast including square sausage, we visit the distillery on the harbour and have a look at the Harbour Centre. Approaching lunchtime, we're on a round the top end of the island tour afternoon, so we drive down as far as Salen and stop for lunch in the Salen hotel. We then resume and turn right, keeping right before Gruline. This single track road goes all the way round the coast of this part of Mull and we head for Calgary, a lovely bay with white sand. Then onto Dervaig on Loch Bellart. It's taken a good few hours to drive this route and it's approaching 17:00 when we get back into Tobermory for our last night. Forgot to say that we visited the Castle of Torosay, another place worth seeing. Another leisurely refreshment break and we've booked dinner at the Pottery restaurant just outrside town. We had a quick look at it this morning on the way out and booked a table. Food is OK and more youthful service. Back down the hill for a nightcap (see a pattern here?).

Day 5 We're off to Skye today, so check out of the hotel after breakfast and head back to Craignure for a 10:00 ferry to Oban. Once there, we turn left and head for Fort William. We drive up the banks of Loch Linhe and across the bridge at Ballachulish up to Ft William. The countryside is again beautiful, with mountains, hills and water everywhere you look. I came to Fort William many years ago, in the mid 60's and remembered it as a smallish busy town. It's grown beyond recognition and not terribly attractively. We don't stop and turn left along the A830 and alongside Loch Eil, heading for the ferry at Mallaig. This is a small place, out on a long limb, with not a lot to see. We arrive early and get put on the earlier ferry, which gains us an hour. We settle for burges from Nula's van in the car park and very nice too! we embark for the 45 minute crossing and arrive on Skye. We staying in Portree and traverse the usual sinle lane and single track roads. It's immediately very different to Mull, with higher peaks and starker scenery and we enjoy the drive up the coast, with the Sound on our right. Into Portree and we're in the Marmalade Hotel, just up the hill from the town.
Recently refurbished, our room is quite large on the top floor, opposite to Maggie and Jim's, a mirror image of ours. We stroll down the hill in about 5 minutes into the town, visit the ATM and explore. It's got a nice harbour with a couple of B&B's and 2 or 3 restaurants, all of which look good. However, we settle on the Royal Hotel for dinner at 8pm. After a look round town, we return to the hotel and sally forth for dinner. Excellent food and a typical Scottish highland town. More nightcaps!

Day 6 Lunch is booked today at the Three Chimneys Restaurant at Dunvegan, quite a way away, but we will travel for a good meal. We incorporate the getting there, into a round trip, taking in the scenery of the Northern end of Skye. we visit the Skye Silver shop, but don't buy anything. They have a "Sale" sign, but there's not much of the total stock in it and nothing takes my wife's eye. Lunch is in a what a small row of converted cottages and Jim booked this three months ago, and got the second to last table! When we arrive at 13:00, there are only a few lunchers already there, but the place is full within 20 minutes. The food is OK, not remarkable. The service is excellent and the theme is a bit Nouvelle Cuisine. So pretty patterns on a plate. Maybe real food hasn't got here yet, though you'd think it would. Don't misunderstand me, the food is perfectly acceptable and one of the two kinds(slivers) of lamb that I had as a main course was absolutely excellent. Overall however, for the price and quantity, it's a bit OTT. We drive back to Portree and by the time we park at the hotel, we're looking forward to dinner.

We find a small restaurant near the sea and have an excellent dinner. Nightcaps!

Day 7 Back to the mainland today and we head for the Skye bridge after breakfast. We're aiming for Callender today. and cross over to the Kyle of Lochalsh, down to Fort William again. On the way, we stop to view the Castle of Eilan Donan, very picturesque. Then through Glencoe, brooding peaks and eerie scenery, you can still feel the massacre in the air! The scenery continues to be riveting, (most of Scotland is, apart from the bigger towns and cities) and we get to Callendar in mid afternoon. The only reason that Jim has booked this B&B is because of the food. We have a look round the town and then drive just outside to Ballachalan. It's described as a "Fish restaurant with Rooms", all three of them!
It's down a track to the right of the main road and stands in it's own grounds, surrounded by a nice garden. We see horses, ducks, dogs and wildlife all around. We check in and find ourselves in a quirky room, quite comfortable but not new. We go back down and order beers all round and sit watching the Oyster Catchers flying around, tyhe rabbits in the top filed and the ducks that walk erect on their legs instead of the usual waddle. Dinner is when we want it and we have a nap after a long drive and re-emerge showered etc. around 7:30pm. Lovely fresh seafood, homecooked everything, ordered from a large wall mounted blackboard. If you're in the area, even if you can't stay here, then try and eat here. After dinner, we oredr another bottle of wine and watch the oyster catchers again, as it goes dark. Night fall is noticeably earlier than on the islands, but it's still gone 10pm here. Perfect day!

Day 8 Wonderful breakfast and off towards Edinburgh, not that far away. We pick up the City Bypass and then take the A1 back into England. Crossing the border, we call into Berwick for a look at the town and to stretch our legs. We walk round part of the walls overlooking the sea and the River Tweed and then follow the coast road past Lindisfarne, (Holy Island) and then stop at Bamburgh for lunch and to see the magnificent castle. We continued on through Seahouses and passing the Farne Islands with their puffin population to Alnwick, for our last night. We're booked into the White Swan on the main street and get there around 3ish. we check in and go for the usual walk. Nothing booked foodwise for this evening and we spy an Indian (Bangladeshi) restaurant and book it. typical Northumbrian market town, but nice to wander about in, so we do. The castle at Alnwick is "Hogwarts" in the Harry Potter films, but we're too late in the day for tour. maybe next time.

The White Swan boasts the woodwork from the First Class lounge of the Olympic, installed in their restaurant, sister ship to the Titanic and very nice it is too. The room has bits that fall off the walls, the breakfast turns out to be very limited in choice and the hotel is overall overpriced. Our curry is quite good, apart from some strange looking pakoras and the Cobra goes down very well.

We drive home today, stopping for lunch at Byland Abbey on the way at the Abbey Inn. the menu has changed since Maggie and Jim came here some weeks ago, but still OK.

What a really good holiday, I'm sorry if I concentrated on the food a bit, but as I said at the beginning, we all enjoy that part of being away.
Lifeman is offline  
Jun 14th, 2010, 12:06 PM
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What a lovely trip -- I have been on every road you took and while reading your report, in my mind's eye, I could see each place you mention.

I do so miss living in the UK where I could 'pop up to Scotland' (or Northumberland, or Yorkshire, or wherever) for a few days.
janisj is offline  
Jun 14th, 2010, 12:49 PM
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Lovely report. Thanks for taking the trouble
sheila is offline  
Jun 14th, 2010, 01:17 PM
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Lovely report - brings back lovely memories of past trips.

I'm such a bad navigator but thought I would be OK on Skye - nope of the two available roads on the island I took the wrong one!!!

Thank you for taking the time and effort to post this. Very enjoyable.
Fashionista is offline  
Jun 14th, 2010, 01:54 PM
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Thank you for the nice report. I miss the beautiful scenery.
amelie is offline  
Jun 15th, 2010, 02:33 AM
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It was a pleasure to recall all the things that we did. Sometimes they just blend into one. My computer crashed when I was I was nearly at the end of my first effort and lost the lot. I saved the second effort as I went along!
Lifeman is offline  
Jun 15th, 2010, 03:54 AM
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Delightful report!
cmcfong is offline  
Jun 15th, 2010, 05:23 AM
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Note to self- must get back to Scotland.
Nikki is offline  
Jun 15th, 2010, 07:55 AM
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Lifeman, thank you so much for going to the trouble to give us this detailed report. In the trip I am planning for next May, I have a lot of your same route in reverse.

It's good to know that one may need to reserve lunch at The Three Chimneys 3 months in advance!

I bookmarked your hotels to look at at leisure. The Marmalade in Portree is one I hadn't heard of. Was the "five minute walk" down to town a 'gentle' one? DH has had 4 knee surgeries, so I try to keep that in mind.

Did your room in the Tobermary make up for being 'small' in other ways?

Glad to know I could chance throwing a pair of shorts in the bag!
hopingtotravel is offline  
Jun 16th, 2010, 04:55 AM
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hopingtotravel..The walk is downhill into the town and is not a problem. My wife has a knee problem but down was OK. Back up is a little steep to start with, then is a more gentle climb to the hotel. It's only 4-500 yards.

The Tobermory Hotel room is small because it's a row of converted old cottages. The view is lovely from the window but the room is fairly standard.

Go for the shorts, but mind the midges!
Lifeman is offline  
Jun 16th, 2010, 05:16 AM
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We absolutely loved Mull and I was able to follow you in 'vision' as well as word! I don't recall the Mishnish restaurant...is it near the 'Fish' restaurant in the white terminal builing facing the landing for the ferry?

I was also wondering if you got to Staffa? When we did our boat trip to the Treshnish Isles (Lunga) it also inclused Staffa.

You do know that Calgary on Mull is named after Calgary Alberta Canada .......where I will be heading in July!
tod is offline  
Jun 16th, 2010, 08:04 AM
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Lifeman, did the Three Chimneys have a view, great decor, or anything to recommend it besides the possibly over-hyped food? We aren't great foodies--like good food and service--but DH isn't crazy about small servings in patterns on a plate.

When you said you got to wear shorts, did you otherwise have very much rain?

tod, Calgary Alberta is in a beautiful setting, but be sure to go just a bit farther west and see Banff.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Jun 16th, 2010, 08:05 AM
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Lifeman, did the Three Chimneys have a view, great decor, or anything to recommend it besides the possibly over-hyped food? We aren't great foodies--like good food and service--but DH isn't crazy about small servings in patterns on a plate.

When you said you got to wear shorts, did you otherwise have very much rain?

tod, Calgary Alberta is in a beautiful setting, but be sure to go just a bit farther west and see Banff.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 03:13 AM
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tod..as I said, the Mishnish pub is old established, but the restaurant next door was upstairs and is now in it's own premises. We're told that it opened there in April(ish) this year. It's on the left facing the harbour, on the opposite side to the "Fish" place (or should that be plaice?) That also looked OK, but we only had three nights. We similarly ran out of time to be able to go to Staffa.

hopingto travel...The Three Chimneys has an Ok view, nothing to die for. The decor is stone walls and modern furniture.See http://www.threechimneys.co.uk/welcome.php

We had no rain apart from the day we started, the rest was wall to wall sunshine.
Lifeman is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 08:28 AM
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Thanks Lifeman, guess I'll see how the rest of trip financing works out. I'm looking forward to both Skye and Mull, and still hoping I can fit in my DH wish for a night on Islay. I like the sound of that sunshine!
hopingtotravel is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 09:02 AM
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I have been lunching at the Three Chimneys once a year for a few years now.
I like the food and atmosphere. I personally like to be able to finish three courses without feeling bloated.
However, I suppose that a real trencherman might not like it.
We usually go in September and have never had difficulty booking a few days ahead.
MissPrism is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 10:30 AM
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hopingtotravel - don't worry, not only are we going to Banff but ALL the 4 parks! We have our own private guide leading the way in his Winibago(?) and we and another couple following in our own motorhomes. The trip will last 2 weeks.
I'll even get to see the world famous Edmonton Mall....!

Lifeman - I have just been laughing my socks off at your comment on the New Scam in Paris post by Cigalechanta "We bought that big Arche thing the last time we were in Paris...
The good thing is the Tower looks great in our garden" LOL!
tod is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 03:27 PM
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Tod, loved the parks in the 60's and again in the early '80's. Now have to be content with spectacular view of Alaska's Chugach Mountains out my window!

Thanks, Miss Prism. Am still considering trying.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Jun 21st, 2010, 04:13 PM
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ronkala is offline  
Jun 24th, 2010, 11:49 AM
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We spent the night and had dinner at Three Chimneys last week. The food was excellent. We had the tasting menu so the courses were quite small but we definitely did not leave feeling deprived. People at the tables around us were having dinner from the regular menu and the portions were more than adequate.
kfoster2047 is offline  

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