My husband and I returned two weeks ago from a fabulous month exploring Scotland, and I promised TA a trip report as gratitude for all the help I received. I’m going to break it down into several posts, as I tend to get wordy. Oh, and please don't post comments to chastise my husband for playing too much golf and ignoring me—this was always part of the plan and we both enjoy a certain amount of ‘alone time.’ It’s all good! This first report will take us from the Glasgow airport to Callander, then to Oban, and over to the Isle of Mull.
Day 1: We arrived in Glasgow airport at 7:30 am, exhausted and disoriented. After getting our luggage we found the Arnold Clark courtesy phone and arranged to meet the shuttle bus, which took us to their office. We had rented the car through Celtic Legend, and William Wallace was really helpful.
In spite of sleep-deprivation, left-hand driving, and those terrifying round-a-bouts, we made it safely out of Glasgow and took the A82 up along the west side of Loch Lomond. Thank heavens for the GPS! Our first stop was Luss where we got sausage buns and lovely lattes at the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel; also enjoyed a walk around this pretty little village. Then carried on up the Loch and through Tarbet—another pretty spot. It had been raining on and off, but stopped as we pulled in for a walk to the Falls of Falloch. We arrived in Callander in early afternoon—it’s an attractive little town, quite touristy, with plentiful shops and restaurants. We were warmly welcomed to the Invernente B&B by Lorraine, and collapsed for a long nap before rousing ourselves for the evening. We walked to the Old Rectory at the other end of town where we had an excellent steak and ale pie, and stayed at the pub for the evening. We had a super time sampling whiskys, listening to fantastic local musicians, and singing along to old Johnny Cash and Creedence Clearwater songs.
Day 2: After a delicious full breakfast—and I tried everything on my plate—we left Callander for a drive. Our first stop was Doune Castle, where we purchased a Historic Scotland pass. This was a beautiful and powerful castle! (Also famous as the set for the Monty Python movie, “The Quest for the Holy Grail.”) We then drove on to Stirling to the Wallace Monument. After a simple lunch in the cafeteria at the Visitors Centre we enjoyed a pleasant woodland walk up the hill to the monument, and made it up the 246 steps to the top. Gorgeous view! Next stop was Stirling Castle, which was stunning. It really gave one a sense of the privileged life of nobility. After this we went next door to the Portcullis Lounge for an ale—a nice pub, but why the horrid loud music? Anyway, we didn’t linger, but returned to Callander for an excellent dinner at Mhor Fish. For our evening entertainment we took a walk out to the golf course, where we saw a little family of deer.
Day 3: My husband decided to swing his clubs on the Callander golf course, so I left him at the course and walked further on up the hill to the trail to Bracklinn Falls. Along the way passed a grove of ancient beech trees—magical to wander through—and en route I spied the little doe and her two young’uns again in an old orchard. The Falls themselves were well worth the walk.
Chilled from the misty rain, I returned to the B&B for a hot shower. When my husband finished his round, we went to Munchy’s for some excellent lentil soup, then took a drive up to Loch Katrine, stopping for tea and cakes at the Brig’o’Turk tea room. It was too windy and cold for us for a boat ride on the Loch, but it’s a pretty area. As we circled back we stopped at the Scottish Wool Centre in Aberfoyle and caught the outdoor exhibition of a border collie herding a flock of geese. We had an elegant dinner at the Crags Hotel, and afterwards listened to the band “Brac’Linn” at the Dalgair Hotel pub. Fun!
Day 4: Our last day in Callander broke clear and sunny. After another great breakfast we were off. We left the A84 at Strathyre and meandered along a country lane, ending up at Balquhidder where we paid our respects at the grave of Rob Roy McGregor and wandered around the old cemetery. Back on the road, we took the A85 north and west, then north on the A82 and up through Glen Coe—vast, brooding, and haunting. Just past Appin, en route to Oban, we were gobsmacked at the sight of Castle Stalker perched on its lonely little islet. Stopped shortly afterwards for a nice lunch on the patio of the Creagan Inn.
Oban is a bustling port town, chock-a-block with tourists and traffic. We finally found the Failte B&B after getting lost several times on the narrow, one-way streets winding up the hillside. My husband went off to try the Oban golf course and I wandered through the town, exploring McCaig’s Tower and browsing through the shops downtown. We had dinner at Oban Fish & Chips, and enjoyed a pleasant hour or two at Foley’s Irish Bar listening to a lively accordion and drum duo.
Day 5: A storm blew in from Iceland during the night and shook our little B&B with gales and rain! A good day for a drive, but first we went to the ferry terminal to purchase our tickets to Mull and reserve a spot. The helpful woman there suggested we buy a hop-scotch ticket that would take us to Craignure, then from Tobermory to Kilchoan, and from Maillag to Armadale, for considerable savings. We were grateful. Business done, we went back downtown to the Oban Distillery and took the tour. It was excellent and I highly recommend it. Then we headed south out of Oban on A816. Our first stop was at the Clachan Bridge—the Bridge over the Atlantic—where we popped into the Tigh-an-truish Inn (the Inn of the Trousers) for lunch and a beer. Revived, we carried on to Kilmartin. The church beside the museum there had a wonderful display of grave slabs which were very impressive. Continuing on out of Kilmartin, we had wanted to see the stone circle at Temple Woods but unfortunately the overnight torrents of rain had flooded the foot path and we didn’t have access. Very disappointing, as we could see them out in the field, the sheep grazing amongst them! Oh well, we went a bit further down the road to Dunadd Fort, which was very interesting as we had just finished reading a series of novels based on Pictish history. This visit involved a challenging and strenuous climb up the hill, but we were rewarded with Pictish stone carvings, including the stone footprint used to inaugurate the kings, and what a view from the top! Alongside this ancient fortress is Britain’s largest remaining raised peat bog. We came down off the hill just as the rain started up again. Back in Oban, we had an unimpressive dinner at Cuan-M’hor, and went home to bed.
Day 6: We said good-bye to Oban after another good breakfast and caught the ferry to Craignure. We decided not to go straight to Tobermory, but drove across the island from Salen to Gruline, then north to Calgary on the narrow coastal road on the west side. We had a great lunch at The Bellachroy Hotel in Dervaig, which gave us energy for a walk into the forest on the hillside going out of the village in order to see the Kilmore standing stones. So powerful! The rain started up again as we got back into the car and kept up as we arrived at Tobermory. I had not reserved ahead in Tobermory and this was a big mistake. It was mid-afternoon by this time and everything was booked. We ended up going to the Tourist Information Centre, which found a vacancy for us. Unfortunately, although it was a pleasant homey B&B, it was out on the edge of town so not convenient, but we had no more energy so took it. After unpacking, we drove back downtown for an ale and, revived, knocked on a few doors to find a B&B on the main street for the following two nights. Cheered up, we spent the evening at Macgochans, the pub by the Information Centre, enjoying the company and conversation of travelers from England.
My next report will continue our stay on Mull, and then head up to WesterRoss.