We were super excited to be setting off on our ten day roadtrip, even if it was a little bit later than planned (a certain somebody forgot half her stuff) so we had to turn back just before getting to the motorway!
Once we were on our way again we had a quick stop at Charnock Richard Services for coffee, then waved at the Forest of Bowland as we passed by, and then stopped again at Tebay Services for fuel and food, sharing what was probably the best sausage roll ever.
It was then up to Carlisle and soon afterwards we had crossed the England/Scotland border and were driving past Dumfries and into Galloway National Park.
We saw our first bird of prey of the holiday, a Red Kite, near Corsock, and I was excited at the prospect of seeing lots more. However, it turned out it was one of about just five that I spotted throughout the entire forest, even though we drove along the Red Kite Trail! I’ve been before and saw hundreds, so I guess they were just hiding from us today.
The landscape changes dramatically as you drive through the park, as big hills and mountains come into view, along with the sight of our first lochs.
We stopped for a coffee and cheeky slice of lemon cake at Clatteringshaw Loch café before heading west along the A712 for a little while. I spotted a car park on the roadmap that looked interesting so persuaded Jo to turn off and drive up a very bumpy track – which scraped the car’s undercarriage. We stopped and had a walk towards a waterfall, which we couldn’t find, so went back the opposite way and found a fantastic little loch called ‘Black Loch’. As we walked along the perimeter of the water, an unusual but stunning conical spire named ‘The Eye’ came into view on the western shore. It’s 8 metres high and was installed as part of a 1997 project called ‘Art in the Galloway Forest’.
A short distance further along the track, past the loch, is the lovely little ‘Grey Mare’s Tail’ waterfall. It was an extremely hot day, around 24c, so we didn’t hang around for too long and spent 10 minutes admiring the scenery before heading back to the car and on with our journey.
The road down to Newton Stewart is stunning. Miles and miles of forest, with rolling hills and mountains at either side. Newton Stuart isn’t really on the tourist trail so we just passed through and headed north up the road to Clachaneasy, where we cut back into the forest, along a road which was mostly single track. Again, this section offered stunning views across Galloway Forest Park to Merrick mountain at 843 meters. From here, on a good day, you can apparently see Snowdon, making it the longest line of sight in the UK.
We continued on for a while, passing ‘Nick of the Balloch’ and ‘Witches Bridge’ before taking a left towards the coast at South Balloch. After driving through the wind farms, we came off the hills and down to the coast, eventually reaching the really smart small coastal town of Turnberry.
The sat nav took us to the staff entrance of our accommodation for the next two nights, The Trump Turnberry Hotel, so we then drove through the pretty little village of Maidens before finally reaching the hotel.
We had a warm welcome, and our room was exceptional, with a side sea view – definitely 5 star. Sitting on the terrace at this luxury hotel and watching the sun set in 24c heat is something special! With views across the golf course and over the sea to Aisla Craig, we were mesmerised.
We ordered food, after waiting a while to be served (which was a developing situation), and eventually had a 5 star burger and pizza. It was a great end to a long and action-packed day. It isn’t cheap, but if you are ready for a treat then we would recommend a stay here.
Day 2 – Scotland Road Trip
We planned the trip so that we would have two nights at each stop. Tonight was our second night at Trump Towers, so we explored some of the local area starting with an early breakfast and walk across the paths through the golf course and onto a beach like we’ve never seen before. It was already really warm outside and even the sea didn’t feel cold when we had a paddle. There were a lot of jellyfish on the beach, some of which looked really pretty revolting, but fascinating nonetheless. The friendly horse we met on the pathway back up towards the road made up for it.
I flew my drone for a while to try to capture the expanse and beauty of the beach and coastline, including the iconic sight of the Turnberry lighthouse, which you can actually rent to stay! There’s also a 10 mile walk that spans all the way along the coast from Girvan to Maidens that takes in this beach (part of the Ayrshire Coastal Path) and as you are walking northwards you can see the Isle of Arran in the distance. It is stunning.
We walked back up to the hotel to get the car and then drove over to the fishing harbour at Maidens. The harbour has such an old-world charm about it, and this was enhanced greatly for us when a local fisherman who was busy painting his boat stopped us for a chat. He began the conversation by shouting over to us to ‘give him a hand’! We chatted for at least half an hour and it firmed up the impression that we already had of Scotland – the people are so friendly and welcoming. After we left him, we looked back and noticed he was chatting to the next group of people who were walking by. I don’t think that boat will ever get finished!
From Maidens we drove on to Croy Shore Beach for another little walk. What a superb place for a day in the sun and for kids to play. We were ready for some lunch at this point so headed on up to the next little fishing harbour at Dunure. This is the tiny village where Highlander was filmed, apparently! We were more interested in our cheese and ham toasties and chips from the harbour-side cafe.
During the next hour we went to Ayr, which we agreed was a much more commercial type of seaside resort. Not really our cup of tea. Our plan for the evening was to get picnic food and drinks and head back to Turnberry beach to watch the sunset, so we used the chance to go to the supermarket here.
By the time we got back to Turnberry and saw the sun on the terrace, we gave up on the beach picnic idea and opted for sitting out there, playing scrabble and having a cocktail. I won at scrabble, without cheating. We would probably have had more than a couple of drinks but there was a 45 minute wait due to a lack of staff. I think the hotel management were still trying to get to grips with staffing levels after re-opening following closure due to Covid-19.
After the sun had dropped into the sea we went to our room, had a posh bath, scoffed our picnic and had an earlyish night, as Day 3 was going to be a long drive.
Day 3 – Scotland Road Trip
Turnberry > Loch Lomond > Port Appin
This was an epic 9.5 hours drive, with a couple of refreshments stops along the way.
We left Turnberry at around 9am and drove north up the coastal route towards Ayr, stopping briefly on a road where there is a phenomenon called ‘Electric Brae‘, where cars appear to be rolling up hill due to the nature of the surrounding land.
Views of the coast were good and at Largs we turned off and took the moorland road through Clyde Muirshiel Park to Greenock. Loch Thom was pretty unimpressive, and Jo described it as ‘a bit murderous’. It was pretty bleak.
Greenock to the bridge of the River Clyde was forgettable, and after stopping for a Starbucks at Milton we set off to Loch Lomond. We had planned a stop at the tiny village of Luss on the shores of the loch and when we arrived we had a walk around, along with a drink at the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel. It was a sweet place, but nothing really to impress greatly. It had a feel of being like a small version of Bowness-on-Windermere. At least the land was mountainous again and the roads offered up some impressive views.
We set off north towards Tarbet and turned off towards the coast again. There had been a landslide on the A83 near ‘Rest and be Thankful’, so we had a half our stop at the temporary lights, but the valley was pretty spectacular.
This next section of the drive was great, coast, mountains, and some nice little towns and villages along the way. The weather also helped as we basked in 24c sunshine again. We saw a sign for a viewpoint and when we parked up here we found Loch Melfort Bistro, which had incredible views from their sun-soaked terrace, so we had a drink and a half hour break.
Next stop was at Lidl in Oban for some continental meats and bread, and alcohol of course. We did this because it was getting late and we had a plan to sit on the balcony at our destination, rather than battling to find a place in a pub.
Oh, Oban seems ok as a touristy type place. Not our thing, but if we were nearby it would be ok to drop in for a night.
Just after 6:30pm we arrived at our Bed and Breakfast accommodation for the next two nights, ‘Appin Bay View’ near Port Appin. Wow. What an absolutely stunning place. Mike, the owner, described it as ‘the best view in Scotland’ and he has a point! Watching the sunset from the veranda with a glass of fizz (on the house from Mike) and our tapas type tea was something we’ll never forget (especially as I took 100’s of photos and videos)!
We began the day at 8am with a solid cooked breakfast, and I tried haggis for the first time. Jo had some Thai ‘street food’, as the owner, Mike, had spent many years in the Far East and brought the recipe back with him. It came with Mike’s homemade spicy fish sauce and paired up surprisingly well with a brew.
We left the B&B for a walk to Port Appin, across Jubilee bridge, along the bay and down the lane. When we reached the tiny harbour in the village we watched the crabs in the water at the end of the pier and noticed a queue gathering for the small foot ferry across to the Inner Hebridean island of Lismore. We then found a table in the sunshine outside The Pierhouse hotel and restaurant for a cup of tea / gin cocktail and some scones with cream and blackcurrant jam. It was good to check the place out because Mike had managed to get us a much sought after table here for dinner in the evening.
From here we continued our walk in the absolutely fantastic weather. We walked up the path behind the hotel and around the peninsular, checking out the caves. We spotted a nice track to follow towards home but it turned out to be private, so we double-backed and went back along the coast. We spotted a fab spot by the beach and thought it might be nice to return later for an evening chill out before dinner.
After freshening up back at the B&B we headed off back to the spot by the beach that we’d seen earlier. A couple of tourists in camper vans had also noticed the beauty of the place and had set up there for the night. Basking in 24 degrees C heat, we had a few beers whilst I took some videos of Castle Stalker with the drone. It was pretty memorable.
Back at The Pierhouse, tea outside in the evening sun was fantastic. Jo had a whole lemon sole with samphire and smoked potatoes (a revelation) and I had an unctuous steak that was on the specials menu. We watched the Lismore ferry go back and forth under the setting sun, and as it cooled we went and sat inside for some cheese and biscuits with a cheeky glass of Port.
Port Appin > Glencoe > Cairngorms > Ballater
We set off at 9am on what was an epic 6 hour journey, visiting what turned out to be some of the most spectacular scenery we’d ever encountered. A good portion of it was accidental as well.
We followed the coast, up to South Ballachulish and missed a turn off, so ended up driving along Loch Leven. It seemed every 5 minutes we were screenshotting potential camping spots.
We parked up at Kinloch more and did a little walk around a small marked trail.
We then came back along the other side of the Loch to Glencoe.
We had a brew and then went for a drive up Glencoe valley road. WOW!
On the way back down we stopped to visit a little Waterfall, near ‘the meeting of three waters’, again, WOW! The water was crystal clear, and a nearby gorge looked like something you’d expect in Croatia. 25c heat helped of course.
We then crossed the bridge that we missed earlier and went up to Fort William for a petrol and brew stop. Fort William was nice on the approach but perhaps a little too ‘towny’ for us to stop and explore.
We then began our eastward journey towards the Cairngorms, getting a glimpse of the mighty Ben Nevis.
Jo spotted Loch Laggan and wanted to stop, se we parked the car and scrambled down to the shore near Kinloch Laggan.
This turned out to be the most surreal, beautiful place I’d seen yet. A mile wide sandy beach, crystal clear fresh water, people in their tents. Even quad bikes. I felt like I had to get in and swim, so that’s exactly what I did. It was warm until the water was waist deep, and felt invigorating. I definitely want to do some more wild swimming now!
We set off again and drove into Aviemore, which had the feel of an Alps ski resort, according to Jo (as I’ve never been to one).
We drove all the way up to the Cairngorm mountain ski centre and had a beer.
On the way back down we stopped briefly at a bridge with a nice river flowing underneath, and then at Loch Morlich, which was like a Mediterranean beach resort. We had another paddle and then set off driving again.
The landscape changed again, from sheer mountain ranges to more rolling fells, topped with purple heather. It actually had a Forest of Bowland feel, except some of the fells topped 800m.
We landed by accident at our home for the next two nights, Howe of Torbeg, because the sat nav wanted to take us another few miles on.
We then went into Ballater and bought some beers and food, and cooked tea on the firepit.
We had a nice cooked breakfast at Bridge House Cafe. I had square sausages and Jo had waffles and bacon, with a spicy scotch bonnet ketchup. Yum!
We then went back to the Howe of Torbeg for a sleep, well, Jo did, but as the driver she fully deserved a rest.
We went to a whiskey distillery on the grounds of Balmoral Castle and then drove into Braemar for a look around and a drink. We then meandered back into Ballater for more meat!
Then it was bbq time, and I was very impressed with myself for figuring out how to bbq chips. And the steak was amazing!
Ballater > Braemar > Linn of Dee > Glenshee > Morebattle
Today was I huge drive for Jo but we managed to cram a walk in along the way.
We stopped for breakfast at The Bothy Braemar, which had a lovely terrace over looking the River Dee. I had cooked breakfast for a change, and Jo had granola, fruit and yoghurt. She tells me it was great but I’ll wait till I’ve finished my holiday to off my cooked breakfast binge .
Jo had a picked a walk at the Linn of Dee, which was reached by a dead end road from Braemar. The walk was spectacular, mountain streams, forests, views of mountain ranges like you just don’t get in England, and a gorgeous Waterfall.
We set off south towards Glenshee and stopped for food at the ski centre.
We saw a heron flyby which we thought was an Eagle at first!
The road from Glenshee descends out of Cairngorms and the landscape become far less spectacular. I used this time to catch up on some work.
From Perth to Edinburgh is forgettable, other than the impressive Forth Bridge.
In fact, a lot of the journey to our destination, Morebattle, was a bit sad. Galashiels being the highlight of sadness.
We stopped at Melrose for some supplies and finished the journey to The Temple Bar at Morebattle.
The hotel was lovely, with a very friendly welcome, with nice views towards Cheviot Hills. We had tea and drinks, and went to bed around 10.
Rest day – Wauchope Forest walk
We had breakfast at the hotel and went off to Wauchope Forest for a walk. This is a very remote place, and we saw a couple with dogs who asked us for directions. They’ll probably be lost.
We then drove towards Kielder Water but the road was closed so we had to turn back.
We went in search of a nice pub for some food and a drink and ended up in Hawick. We didn’t hang around and tried Jedburgh. It was just about worthy of a half hour stop for fish and chips.
We went back to the hotel and sat in the beer garden, realising that this was the beer garden we were looking for all afternoon.
The weather was glorious as usual throughout this trip, the beer was good, and the service was the warmest we’d encountered yet. All the girls were such lovely people.
At tea time we shared nachos, I had the burger (again), and Jo had macaroni. The staff let us sit in the residents lounge, which we had to ourselves.
Morebattle > Border > Bellingham > Low Force (Teesdale) > Aysgarth Falls > Forest of Bowland > Red Pump Inn
168 miles – 6hrs 45 mins
We had breakfast, cooked again, surprise surprise, and this was probably the best so far.
At about 9.30am we hit the road and drove through Kielder.
Lots of nice stops were put into Google maps so that we could meander through the Pennines, rather than boring A roads and motorways, and we soon landed at the England/Scotland border. This was definitely worth a stop as the road was a high pass with incredible views over the Cheviot.
We noted the difference between the well kept Scottish flag and the bedraggled English flag. Says it all!
We then stopped at a cafe in Bellingham, which felt like we were in somebody’s front garden. Jo had ‘the best coffee ever’.
The roads continued south through the Pennines and we took a very remote road over Western hope Moor to check out a skiing area on Swinhope Moor. After assessing the landscape we still couldn’t figure out how to get up to the slopes. Anyhow, a beautiful remote area.
We came down into Newbiggin and went up to High Force to have a look at the Waterfall. It was too busy so we went Low Force for a brief stop instead.
Next a quick stop for fuel at Mickleton at ‘England’s best view for a petrol station’ and then onto Barnard Castle and then into The Yorkshire Dales.
We stopped at CB Inn for a drink and food, but they’d stopped serving food. It was still lovely to look at the fells I’d previously visited last about 10 years ago.
We drove through the lovely Reeth, and I stopped for a photo of Fremington Edge, which I have find memories of. This was added to our to do list.
Next stop was Aysgarth Falls, which was busy, but we found a nice quiet spot to have our sandwich. We then walked back up to the cafe and had a monstrous ice cream, overlooking the cemetery, with sheep in it.
The next section of the drive was through Hawes and then along the famous Ribblehead Viaduct road. We didn’t stop because I’ve seen it a million times and was mindful about Jo’s driving time. It’s still an amazing road, and Jo commented on how impressive Ingleborough looks from this approach. Funny though that a few days earlier we were having cups of tea at cafés nearly same height as Ingleborough!
After passing Ingleton and Bentham we entered the Forest of Bowland.
I pointed out Great Stone of Four stones along the way and we continued over the moorland road to Slaidburn via Cross of Greets. Along the way we stopped to look at the sad demise of a caravan, and then at Cross of Greet Bridge car park near the young River Hodder.
We then drove through Newton-in-Bowland and took the back road through Cow Ark before landing at the Red Pump Inn at Bashall Eaves.
We dumped our stuff in the yurt, freshened up, and then had tea, which was delicious. I had steak and ale pie, Jo had the Dublin fish summat or other, and we were watched by the evil parasol.
It was still warm enough to eat outside but we could feel the storm coming in.
Rest day and walk in the Forest of Bowland
On our final full day Jo did some studying in the yurt and I went off for a walk along the River Hodder. We then had some drinks and tea at the Red Pump Inn, which was phenomenal!
The weather was pretty bad all day, but to be honest, we’d over a week of hot, sunny weather, so a wet day in the Forest of Bowland wasn’t at all bad. We’ve had many before, and I’m sure we’ll have many again!