An Outlander’s Roadtrip Through The Scottish Highlands
Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was a place whose very soul lay entwined in enchantment. A place where the sun shone like amber, where the rivers ran crystal and where fuzzy wild-land beasts roamed the valleys without a care in the world. A place obscured by mountains, ringed with dappled rocks and painted in colours almost too vibrant to be real. Almost. Because this place was not simply a figment of a fairytale. This place was real. And it goes by the name of the Scottish Highlands.
GOLDEN HOUR AT DOUNE CASTLE
Just a meagre 60-minute drive outside the cultural concourse that is Edinburgh, lies the first doorway to this magical world. Doune Castle, notable for its rich history and royal intrigue, stunning ancient stonework, and most recently, for its part in the major Starz TV Series, Outlander in which it was featured as the fictional Castle Leoch. Perfect for a day’s excursion from the country’s capital, or in our case as a stepping stone into the Highlands, Doune Castle is an arresting attraction no matter what the time, but even more if you’re lucky enough to catch it during golden hour.
Follow the sparkling sun North-West, winding up through the forested roads and past the indigo blue reflection of Loch Lubnaig until at last the russet moors part, the open road widens and you have entered paradise. Glencoe will be its name. Here, the grass is not simply green but gold. Here, the rocks are not grey but marbled purple. And here, the waters are not just crystal but shine an unmistakable emerald. Let the wild mist wash over you and the chill of the wind bite your skin. Then when your fingers are blue, your cheeks are numb and you are one step away from hypothermia, leap back into your warm car and drive on.
A FAIRYTALE OF FORT WILLIAM AND THE FALL OF FOYERS
Up ahead, make a short detour in the town of Fort William. Take a walk down the cobblestone laid High Street, enjoy some thickly cut chips and visit The West Highland Museum. (The Jacobite Collection should not be missed!) Then heed the call of the open road and take the A82 North until you can hear the regal rumble of The Fall of Foyers. Follow the pine needle path down (keep an eye out for the poem inlaid stones) until the neon green ferns grace your vision, the water runs icy against your hand, and you have found the realm that magical creatures call home.
THE CREATURES OF LOCH NESS
According to folklore, a water horse by the name of Nessie calls the inky black depths of Loch Ness its home. Now, I’m not sure if this ‘monster’ exists but I do know of another creature with amber fur, shaggy blond hair and curved horns that roams the stunning countryside surrounding this freshwater loch. Highland Cattle are a regular sight along this gorgeous scenic expanse and while I wouldn’t recommend going for a swim during the latter months of the year, to miss a Loch Ness sunset would be a crime.
A DARK SIDE TO THE HIGHLANDS
On 16th of April, 1746, The Jacobites and The British Army met on Culloden Moor for one of the bloodiest battles the world had ever seen, one that virtually ended the clan way of life in Scotland. Today, you can take a sobering walk past the stone silhouettes of hundreds of Clan memorials; the green battlefield no longer stained with blood, but forever marred by death. While history will never forget the sacrifice those highlanders made in that fight for their freedom, the sun does shine out, the sky dispels the clouds, and precious, beautiful life goes on.
SCOTTISH SECRETS WITHIN CAIRNGORMS NATIONAL PARK
Enter into the natural playground of Cairngorms National Park, home to an extraordinary range of mountains and hills, majestic wildlife, and secrets almost too beautiful to reveal. Acting as a portal into this enchanting parkland is Carrbridge, a little Scottish town home to the oldest stone bridge in all of the Highlands. There are almost no words to describe this wonder, so I’ll let the photos do all the talking.
BRAEMAR CASTLE BEAUTY
While Cairngorms is renowned for its flora and fauna, it is also famed as a home to some of Scotland’s most splendid castles and palaces. Braemar Castle in particular, sets a striking shadow above the charming fields and forests surrounding it. Favoured with a dramatic history and a list of impressive visitors including Queen Victoria and Robert Louis Stevenson (who was inspired to write Treasure Island while staying at the castle), there is an unmistakable air of grandeur interlaced with the remarkable stonework and ancient graffiti.
AN ADVENTURE TO REMEMBER
There are some places you know you will love before you even lay eyes on them. You feel the bite of the cold mountain breath before the grassy caps grace the horizon. You hear the sharp calls of the grouse before their wings blow the wind through your hair. And you can see the indigo blue sky meld with the crystal glaze of the lochs before the water snakes its way down from the heavens. You feel but your skin is numb. You love before you know just how much. Only a few places can ever wield that much power. The Scottish Highlands were one of those places for me.