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Written by
Catherine Allan
Catherine Allan

A Scottish Snapshot: Highlights of The Highlands in 8 Days

I joined our tour development team in the summer of 2017 and am currently working on our Scottish tours, as part of becoming familiar with our most popular Scottish trips I took my Mum, Barbara, on our Highlands & Isle of Skye: Rail & Hike trip.  Normally my holidays consist of rock climbing, and hiking mountains with my boyfriend so I wasn't sure about how much I would enjoy a trip with a focus on travel throughout.  However, I am pleased to say my Mum and I came back after a really positive experience, and the journeys during the trip were a real highlight. Indeed some of the railways are the most scenic in the country taking you through remote landscapes that it would take days to walk to!  The trip is the perfect way to see as much of Scotland as possible in a week; we hiked through the woodlands of Perthshire, strolled around the Highland city of Inverness, gazed in awe at the alien landscape of The Storr, walked the coastal clifftops on Skye, rode the Jacobite steam train to Fort William, and followed the banks of the Caledonian Canal at either end of the renowned Great Glen Way.

1. The Wild Woodlands of Blair Atholl Estates, Perthshire

[caption id="attachment_24707" align="aligncenter" width="900"] The airy deciduous woodlands of Blair Atholl Estate in Perthshire - a rewarding scene at the top of Banvie Burn Glen.[/caption] The first two nights of the trip are spent in the quaint Perthshire village of Blair Atholl.  The village is dominated by Blair Castle, the earliest parts of the castle date from as far back as the 1200s.  We provide a choice of walks in the area, and my Mum & I chose the Banvie Burn walk that takes you into the upland moors and woodlands behind the Atholl Estate and then down through the charming hamlet of Old Blair and passing the castle grounds through pretty farmland.  

2. The Heart of the Highlands: Inverness

[caption id="attachment_24709" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Blue skies over the bustling city of Inverness on the eastern fringes of the Highlands (taken from the start points of one of our walks).[/caption] [caption id="attachment_24723" align="aligncenter" width="819"] Jumping for the fun of it on one of the many suspension bridges that criss-cross the River Ness in the heart of Inverness.[/caption] We spent our third night in the bustling city of Inverness, after a scenic rail journey from Blair Atholl.  On arriving we settled into our accommodation after enjoying a cup of coffee and homemade muffins with our hosts.  Being Scottish we had already been lucky enough to see the main sights of Inverness and visit the legendary Loch Ness so we chose the Inverness loop walk that makes an 11 km circuit along the River Ness and then out across the Caledonian Canal to the sea before following the river back into the city centre.  There are plenty of places to eat, drink, and explore so your evening is what you make of it!  We met with some of my Mum's old school friends for a delicious meal.  

3. Over The Sea to Skye: Adventuring on The Isle of Skye

[caption id="attachment_24714" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Make sure to allow plenty of time for admiring the spectacular vistas of The Storr formation at the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_24713" align="aligncenter" width="900"] You can get some wonderful views (and weather!) from the trigpoint at the summit of Sithean Bhealaich Chumhaing on the coastal ridge-line.[/caption] As an alternative to the wonderful Skye Day Tour Mum & I wanted to get some miles beneath our feet so we walked a section of the long-distance Skye Trail from The Storr to the harbour town of Portree.  But first, we couldn't resist walking around the Quiraing to see The Storr formations.  The landscape here is amazingly otherworldly; arrive there in the morning to appreciate the wild atmosphere at it's best!  We then set out across the moorland hugging the clifftops of the coastal ridge to Portree before enjoying a lovely evening meal in Portree's main square.  

4. Scotland's Most Famous Rail Journey: The Jacobite Steam Train to Fort William

[caption id="attachment_24722" align="aligncenter" width="900"] The windows of the Jacobite steam train open out onto some rarely trod terrain, and of course, give the best views of the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct.[/caption] From the small harbour town of Portree, where we spent two nights, we journeyed to Fort William on the trip's most varied day of travelling.  The scenery on the bus ride from Portree to the ferry terminal at Armadale is absolutely beautiful, and then to Mallaig by ferry - there's nothing like a ferry journey to let you know that you're on an adventure.  From Mallaig, we took the Jacobite steam train (the "Harry Potter" train) to Fort William - the outdoor capital of the western Highlands.  We had plenty of time to enjoy the sights of Fort William before a hearty dinner together.  

5. Walk the Great Glen Way

[caption id="attachment_24728" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Follow the inky waters of the Caledonian Canal walking a section of the Great Glen Way. The Caledonian Canal spans the breadth of the country.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_24718" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Barbara looking out over an autumnal woodland en route to Spean Bridge after our canal-side walk to Gairlochy.[/caption] Our last day of walking took us from bustling Fort William to the quiet village of Spean Bridge along the Caledonian Canal towpath on easy-going terrain.  We found that it was a really nice touch to walk from the Fort William side of the canal after walking the opposite end when we were in Inverness.  It was wonderful to appreciate the canal-side woodlands in all their autumnal finery! The trip proved to be a wonderful way to explore the highlands of Scotland and to get a really immersive experience, away from bus tours and having our hand held. If you would like to know more about the Highlands & Isle of Skye: Rail & Hike trip, don't hesitate to get in touch with one of our specialists who will be more than happy to help.  
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