The 3rd day of the work portion of my Scotland visit was dominated by time behind the wheel, punctuated by stunning scenery around every corner.
Speaking about driving in Scotland ... don't do it if you don't have to! I am traveling alone on business and have been to Scotland many times, so I have seen the beauty of this place with the help of a driver. When you're traveling for vacation, we always recommend having a driver, one reason is the convenience of not driving in Scotland:
- Road signs in the UK are very different than the road signs in the US, which results in making split second decisions at high rates of travel based on road signs that you aren't used to reading.
- You are driving on the wrong side of the road which is not a big deal when you are traveling on a "Dual Carriageway" (highway with grass between north and south lanes). Only about 20-30% of my drive time this week has been spent on Dual Carriageways.
- You will make many left hand turns on roads in town and end up looking at the frightened eyes of a driver that is actually in the correct lane while you still think that you are back in the states, heading into the wrong lane, head on.
- I mentioned the incredible scenery. I didn't really get to enjoy it much unless I stopped at a "lay-by." The few times that I did get a look at the soaring mountains or rushing streams, I was too focused on staying in the left lane to take my eyes off the road long enough to appreciate the beauty that I was witnessing.
- The roads are not very wide in most of the Highlands. In fact, most of the roads that I drove today were "single track" roads which sounds safer but it means that the road is only 1 car (or truck) wide. If either you or the other vehicle are traveling at a high rate of speed as you round a corner ...
- Adding to my enjoyment of the Highlands the last few days, I was unable to secure a car with an automatic transmission for this trip. That meant that I got to experience the magic of the Highlands with my left hand on the "stick", my right foot on the brake and my heart in my throat!
- My driving experience over the last few days was exacerbated by the fact that I was trying to see as many hotels and meet as many partners as I could. I didn't have time to pull over, get out of the car, take pictures or drink in the scenery as you will probably do if you drive yourself in Scotland!
Final note on driving. If you have to drive yourself, do it. It will be stressful and you won't see as much as you would otherwise see, but it's better than not going to Scotland at all. If you can afford it however, hire a driver and augment it if you have to with train rides or transfers. Driving yourself in Scotland offers no positives other than getting around.
As for the non-transportation related parts of the day:
- Visited 2 great Country House Hotels near Inverness: Loch Ness Lodge (below, left) and Bunchrew House (below, right). These are two excellent places to spend a few nights in the Highlands. Both offer beautiful rooms, excellent food and comfortable settings.
- An hour and a half west of Inverness, you'll find Torridon Hotel and Lodge (below). It is the epitome of a special hotel in a special place that you will want to come back to year after year. I met with the General Manager and one of my first questions was "What do people do during the day when they stay with you?" His answer kind of says it all: "I don't know, they all just disappear and come back at dinner time." An exaggeration to say the least, but people do head out for hikes, kayaking or any other type of outdoor activity. And that is why they visit Torridon Lodge, year after year.
- A quick check-in at Inverlochy Castle Hotel (below) confirmed that it is still one of the most beautiful places to stay in Scotland.
- Some other stops did not yield much in the way of recommendations.
My last stop of the day was the Isle of Eriska (below) which is a handsome hotel located on.....wait for it,.. ..The Isle of Eriska! It's a beautiful Castle in a gorgeous setting. Walking around the island is the primary activity for people staying here but it is also relatively close to Glencoe and Oban where you can take a Ferry Tour of nearby islands like Staffa, Mull and Iona. Dinner was a 9-course tasting menu featuring mainly local ingredients. This was not my last visit to the Isle of Eriska!