A Wee Trip to Scotland

By Beth Roulston 2019-01-09 16:33:59

I'll have you know that means 'small' where I'm from!

Believe it or not, Scotland has more to it than kilts, whisky, and men screaming ‘FREEDOM!’ It’s a beautiful country with an, ehem, interesting history… We come from tribes of fierce warriors who painted themselves blue, and we have held our own in wars with none other than the mighty Roman Empire and the fearsome Vikings. Despite these invasions, this mountainous country of just over five million people has maintained a rich culture and is today a stunning location for a wee holiday. Think breathtaking scenery, eerily beautiful castles, scores of stunning coastline, and fascinating landmarks to visit!

If all that doesn’t draw you in like a moth to a flame, you might be tempted to visit for the friendly reception of the Scottish people alone. If you find you need more advice than this article can provide, you can count on my countrymen to be your willing and trusted tour guides. Ask any Scotsman for directions, where to get a family meal, and which way to head for a pint. The locals will not only make you feel welcome, they’re also very likely to regale you with some pretty incredible stories. As my grandfather used to say, “dinnae (don’t) let the truth stand in the way of a good story.”

Like most countries, you would need longer than two weeks to see all of it. However, if you are going for a short break and would like to know some of the most beautiful places to visit, then read on!

Road Trip North

Scotland is made up of several areas: the ‘Borders,’ the ‘Lowlands,’ and the ‘Highlands’ as well as several islands off the coasts; all stunning places to visit. As my family live close to the border of England near a town called Dumfries (pronounced dumfrees) my partner and I began our journey here. From Dumfries, we journeyed north past Glasgow and through the Trossachs. The Trossachs National Park is one of Scotland’s finest destinations as it is an area made up of woodland, mountains, glens (valleys), and some of the most beautiful lochs (lakes).

Here you can do a range of fantastic activities such as camping, water sports, hikes, animal spotting, and discovering nature. This area is also home to some of Scotland’s finest wildlife, including the ‘Breadalbane’ (Red Elk), and the iconic red squirrels known as the ‘Cowal.’ It’s a guaranteed adventure for children!

If you are looking for a true Scottish experience, avoid a hotel. Instead, book either a B&B or an Airbnb for a more authentic and welcoming experience. My partner and I stayed at Culag Lochside Guest House right by Loch Lomond and woke up to breathtaking views - the absolute best way to start a day! That being said, the loch is a spectacular vision at night as well, and we were blessed with a serene evening whereby the loch stood still as though made of glass, perfectly reflecting the mountains behind.

Once we were past the Trossachs, the magic just wouldn’t stop. We crossed over the highland mountains that literally looked as though they had fallen out of a Lord of The Rings film set; chilling peaks and snowcapped mountains as far as the eye could see. As if that weren’t enough, we were also privy to quite possibly the best sunset I have ever witnessed. If you’re doing this drive yourself, be sure to take advantage of the abundance of stopping points where you can step out of the car and capture some magical moments. Trust me, this is a much more preferable option to awkwardly hanging outside your car window with your phone, freezing your backside off.

About 175km north of Glasgow, we stopped off at the town of Fort William, a quaint little town on the other side of the Tolkien-esque mountains. This is a perfect place to break your journey up whilst traveling to the Isle of Skye. As there aren’t too many hotels here, I highly recommend you book well in advance. My personal favorite is The Alexandra Hotel as it is reasonably priced, centrally-located, and quintessentially Scottish (well… that and their breakfasts were pretty good!) Make sure you try at least one traditional Scottish breakfast; the potato cakes are marvelous!

Before continuing on to the Isle of Skye, we decided (I insisted) to visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This landmark, not to be confused with the Scotch whisky, Glenfiddich, is perhaps most famous for its appearance in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; or as most of you will remember, ‘that bit when Harry and Ron almost get run over by the Hogwarts Express over a bridge of some description.’ If you are a keen photographer or an Instagram enthusiast, there are three ideal viewpoints for taking photos. Only a five-minute walk from the gift shop you can get a wide-angle view of the monument next to the lake, or the viaduct. For those who have a bit more gusto, there are two viewpoints that take slightly longer to walk to but provide much better angles. As the hugest nerd in the world and a big fan of Harry Potter, it was easy for me to spend a good two hours here, and I must say… it was completely worth it!

While the Glenfinnan Viaduct is included in many different Scottish tours, there are those of us who would prefer to see the sites without the bother of a milling crowd. If that’s the case, you will need to hire a car. But no worries, both the car park and viewing points are free.

From the Glenfinnan Viaduct it’s only a short 40-minute drive to the Mallaig ferry port, one of the quickest and simplest ways to get to the Isle of Skye. However, please don’t do what my partner and I did… Despite discussing the importance of booking said ferry, neither of us actually booked it! So, after a very disappointed phone call, we then had to make a very swift U-turn and go back the way we came…

Although my partner and I sometimes neglect to use our brains, we did get a positive out of it; the longer drive afforded us the chance to visit my favorite castle in all of Scotland. Eilean Donan is a 13th Century castle surrounded by gorgeous scenery not too far from the Skye Bridge that connects the Isle of Skye to the mainland. One moment at this castle will fill your head with tales of romance and epic battles! Opening times vary depending on the time of year, and tickets only cost £20 (roughly 180 RMB) for a family ticket valid for two adults and three children.

Isle of Skye

Now don’t be fooled into thinking, ‘this is an island… surely it can’t be that big or difficult to get around.’ Yes, it is an island but the number of roads are sparse, and you can’t simply cross from east to west. Think ahead about the places you want to visit and then plan a route.

The sites

Old Man of Storr hike is located on the northeast coast of Skye and is definitely one of my top five favorite hikes of all time. It is impossible not to fall completely in love with the magical landscape of cavernous rock, cliff edges, and breathtaking views.

The starting point to Old Man of Storr can easily be found through an online map and parking is conveniently located either 300 meters south of the starting point or by the side of the road. The entrance is signposted and as there are usually quite a few other tourists there, you can simply follow the crowds. The hike is easy to walk with young children; just make sure to carry water, sweeties (bribes) and take plenty of stops! The hike should take you about an hour to climb to the top and about the same walking down.

An absolute must see is the Neist Point Lighthouse (pronounced Neest), which was built in 1909 and is located at the most westerly point of Skye. As it is high up and next to the coast, be prepared to take a warm jacket with you outside the summer months because it gets pretty windy. Going with children is fine but be sure to keep them away from the cliff edges.

To be truly blown away, make time to go see ‘The Quiraing’ landslip, a strange feature in the landscape where the land is slowly ‘slipping’ to form a valley. Believe it or not it is the only landslip in Skye still moving! Its mystifying landscape and hauntingly beautiful cliffs make it the perfect location for many movie sets such as last year’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword plus many others!

By this point you may be feeling ravenous from all the walking and fresh air, so make sure you get to The Three Chimneys. The food is delicate, fresh, and delicious; that and they were awarded ‘UK Restaurant of the Year’ 2018 from The Good Food Guide.

The majority of hotels on Skye are located in Portree next to the sea. Keep in mind that much of the accommodation is quite basic. However, if you’re willing to pay a tad bit extra, you can expect excellence! Whilst in Portree, be sure to take the little ones on an early morning stroll along the coast to play ‘who can spot the otter.’ Young otters are incredibly playful and can often be spotted playing in the water along the shoreline. But if you need some help, there are wildlife guides who can help you spot these cheeky animals. On your stroll, why not stop by for some fish and chips? This common meal will leave you feeling like a proper Brit and will quite possibly give you cravings for this greasy treat long after you’ve left the island. And of course, for a fun evening of Highland music and camaraderie, check out the local pubs. From my observation, all the pubs were very family friendly and had plenty of things on the menu for kids!

If you are visiting Skye during the winter, you may actually be lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights. You never know, this natural light display in the Earth’s sky may convince you to stay on Skye (or Scotland) forever.


family travel

As the hugest nerd in the world and a big fan of Harry Potter, it was easy for me to spend a good two hours here, and I must say… it was completely worth it!

It is impossible not to fall completely in love with the magical landscape of cavernous rock, cliff edges, and breathtaking views.

Good to Know

• Getting to and traveling within Scotland:

I recommend flying direct to Glasgow as it is the most hassle-free option. However, a lot of travelers prefer to get to London Heathrow (as it is usually cheaper and there are more direct flights) then get a short flight from Heathrow up to Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, or the larger airport of Glasgow.

Whilst in Scotland, I highly recommend hiring a car as it’s much more convenient and you can plan your journey around what suits your family best. However, the railways, coaches and bus services in Scotland are pretty excellent as well. There is a direct bus from Glasgow (Buchanan bus station) to the Isle of Skye (Portree) that takes roughly six hours and forty minutes depending on the traffic.

• To visit Eilean Donan Castle:


• For trains, coaches, and buses in Scotland: