We ended up taking two trips to the Highlands while in Scotland, one from Edinburgh and the other from Glasgow. We took both tours with the same tour company, Rabbies, due to the smaller amount of people they take on their tours. Though both took place around the same part of Scotland, the tours took us to almost completely different locations, the only exception being Pitlochery, which allowed us to see way more than we would have if we had just gone on one tour. In that way, if you have the time in Scotland, there is no harm in taking two highlands tours (or a single 2 or 3-day tour). In fact, I would recommend it.
Our first tour took off from Edinburgh and was the Highland Lochs, Glens, and Whisky tour in which we were driven around by our kilt-wearing Scottish driver, James. We made several stops on our way north through the Highlands, starting in Dunkeld, a tiny village with a 13th-century small church overlooking the River Tay, attached to which is an older ruined cathedral. Down the sloped field adjacent to the church is the river bank where we got a quick look at the Dunkeld Bridge leading into town.
Dunkeld is surrounded by a lush woodland area called the Hermitage which is populated by towering Douglas firs. Just a few minutes ride from Dunkeld, we took a little walk up through the forest to the 18th century Ossian’s Hall which gave us an amazing view of the roaring Black Linn Fall’s below.
We took a quick lunch break at one of Queen Victoria’s favorite holiday destinations in Pitlochry before heading to her favorite place to spend time in the Highlands with its breathtaking view overlooking the narrow Loch Tummel, which is now called Queen’s View.
From Queen’s View, we drove along the edge of Loch Tummel before stopping on the shores of Loch Tay at a little beach in the 16th-century village of Kenmore. The beach afforded us with some breathtaking views of the loch and its surrounding mountains though the pictures definitely don’t do the view justice.
After our long journey through the highlands, we finally reached Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery where a few of us took a tour of the production facility, learning how whisky is made and what makes Dewar’s whisky different than the plethora of other Scotch Whiskys that come from the Highlands. Unfortunately, none of us are huge fans of the stuff so we may have done better going on a different tour. Regardless, Scotch is one of the things that set Scotland apart from its English neighbors so it was still well worth it to go to the distillery.
Our second tour was the Loch Ness, Glencoe, and Highlands tour departing from Glasgow. We headed north from the city towards Loch Lomond, the largest loch by area in Scotland which gets its name from Ben Lomond, an adjacent mountain. We stopped there before the morning fog had lifted, making it nearly impossible to take good pictures. As the day progressed, however, the weather would take a really good change for the better.
We traveled north from Loch Lomond, climbing through Scotland’s high country toward the Rannoch Moor plain and its incredible views of the seemingly untouched wilderness and its surrounding mountains.
The plain leads down to probably the most beautiful expanse of the Scottish Highlands towards the Glencoe Valley. Glencoe is home to some truly awe-inspiring snow-capped mountains and cliff faces, the most impressive of which are called the Three Sisters of Bidean nam Bian.
Passing under the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, we headed towards Fort Augustus which sits on Loch Ness’s south-west shore. Loch Ness is easily the largest loch in Scotland by volume and definitely the most well-known due to its connection with the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Unfortunately, there is no concrete evidence that the monster ever existed and the loch is not outstandingly beautiful. I have no doubt the monster was made up to increase tourism to Loch Ness since, without it, the loch’s only redeeming quality is its slightly above average views. We tried to liven up the experience with a boat trip through the loch, though in the end, it was not really worth it for the price.
We headed back south towards Glasgow, but not before stopping at Perthshire where we took a quick walk into the serene forest to watch the river flow by beneath us.
Lastly, our tour guide had one more special stop in store for us to say “hello” to a herd of highland cattle, or what he liked to call “hairy coos,” which are essentially funny looking long-haired red cows with horns.
Both tours were undoubtedly worth visiting, though Lauren and I both agreed that given the choice, our tour from Glasgow up to Loch Ness provided us with the more impressive views. Luckily, the same tour runs from Edinburgh, though it takes a slightly different route. Our Scottish Highlands tours were definitely some of the highlights of our trip to Scotland and I think no trip to the country is truly complete without a trip north to the highlands.