Driving down the West Coast of Scotland – Glencoe, Oban, Skye and the Harry Potter Bridge

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
9
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
7
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
7
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
8
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
77 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Europe
country
UK
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 400
Time of year visited
December
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
52nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class

Summary

The west coast of Scotland is stunning – right up there with the likes of the fjords of Patagonian, Alaska, New Zealand and Norway . . . and with the added advantage of castles and whiskey.  As an Englishman, I’d travelled far and wide to see great sites around the world and didn’t realise that one of the most impressive was, comparatively, on my doorstep.  Stunning and one of the highlights of the UK

 

There are various routes to take, but I suggest the driving route from Oban and up to the Isle of Skye.  Plenty of highlights to keep you busy for 3-4 days

 

Top tip #1 – you must drive.  Whilst you could I suppose make your way by public transport, you would miss out on the real highlight which is being able to stop for 5mins in the various stops along the coast to gorp at the magnificent views, and it would take you overall just a lot longer as public transport in these parts is quite limited.  The driving is very much part of this experience

Top tip #2 – even if you don’t like whiskey, the learning about how it is made, the history and the different tastes to look out for in each dram is a very Scottish, and very much fun experience.  The distilleries of Talisker and Oban are some of the most famous is Scotland and give you that great taste of the art that is whiskey making

Top tip #3 – you can do this trip all year round.  I’ve visited 3 times in winter and found the atmosphere at this time or year, with the far fewer tourists, magical.  Of course, summer is also great as the hikes are more enjoyable

highlights

#1 Driving through the beautiful glens, lochs and mountains in the curvy roads that hug this western edge of the Scottish Coast

#2 The morning hike up to the spectacular rocky outcrop of the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye

#3 The wonderfully set Eilean Castle, nestled by the entrance to Loch Long

#4 The Glenfinnan Viaduct aka the Harry Potter Bridge

#5 The sensation views out across the super long Loch Shiel by Glenfinnan

#6 Learning about the art of single malt whiskey making from the masters at the Talisker and Oban distilleries

#7 Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls that cascade sharply from the edge of the Isle Skye into the sea

#8 Taking one of the ferries across from the mainland to the Isle of Sky with its dramatic snow capped mountains in the distance

Rough itinerary

  • Day 1 – start off in the waterfront town of Oban to learn how they make the local whiskey at the wonderful Oban whiskey distillery.  Have an early lunch and then have the afternoon to drive the 1.5 hours along the coastline to see the beautifully set Castle Stalker sitting on its island in Loch Linnhe and Glencoe, Scotland’s most grad and famous glen.  Spend the evening near Fort William

OPTIONAL EXTRA – if a nice day, give yourself and extra day to climb (or take the chair lift) to the top of Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest point at 1345m/4410ft

  • Day 2 – drive up to the spellbinding Glenfinnan viaduct, the inspiration and setting for the Harry Potter train ride, but also with sensational views across nearby Loch Shiel, and then on to the ferry port of Mallaig to take one of the regular car ferries over to Armadale on the Isle of Sky.  Spend the afternoon checking out the highlights of central and western Skye – the Fairypools for their pretty emergence all the way along the valley; the Talisker Distillery, the only distillery on Skye; and Dunvegal Castle and the Neist Point Lighthouse in the far west.  Spend the evening in the super pretty town of Portree
  • Day 3 – start early for the 2 hour hike up to the spectacular rocky outcrop of the Old Man of Storr (famous site for, amongst other things, the start of the movie Prometheus) and to drive to see the Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls that cascade sharply from the edge of Skye into the sea.  Have lunch in Staffin and then head away from the island of Skye to leave via the Skye bridge and finish at the wonderful setting of Eilean Castle that is at the entrance to Loch Long
  • Total driving time 6 hours 45mins, 380km / 236miles 

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone