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Day 8: Culloden to Hawick via Fort William

We were always going to have a big day of driving ahead of us today, with the shortest route from Culloden to Hawick being around 209 miles. This route didn't look like it would be terribly exciting though, as it would involve retracing Wednesday's journey through Aviemore, Pitlochry and Perth. Although that had admittedly been a really scenic route, we felt like we'd rather try something different. Looking at the map last night, we came up with the idea of driving across Scotland to Fort William, and from there taking the road through Glen Coe. We had stayed in Fort William during both our 2010 and 2011 trips to Scotland and remembered it as being a really beautiful place.

The start of our journey saw us retracing the route from Culloden to Fort Augustus which we'd followed on Thursday, driving past the viewpoint at Loch Tarff. Resisting the temptation to get out of the car and do the walk again, we continued on to Fort William, arriving just before midday.


Although the town felt small to us, it's actually the second largest in the Highlands (with Inverness being the biggest). The population of Fort William is less than 11,000 though (and the metropolis of Inverness is actually smaller than Nuneaton!).


The main thing we remembered about Fort William from our previous visits were the views.


The town is situated on Loch Linnhe, one of Scotland's sea lochs.


When we've stayed here before, it's been in guest houses with beautiful views out across the loch.


Today we paid for an hour of parking in the town and followed a path down to the beach.


From here we were able to stroll through a garden alongside the loch.


The flowers, combined with the views, were really beautiful.


I particularly liked these pink flowers :) 


The weather was much sunnier today than it had been yesterday and I'd remembered to put sun cream on for a change.


We were also wearing midge spray, because the midge forecast for Fort William and Glen Coe looked particularly bad.


There weren't any midges here though and so we were able to enjoy the views unmolested :) 


The views were so nice that it was tempting to keep walking indefinitely, but we had a long day ahead of us so we needed to get back to the car.


Our next destination was Glen Coe, which we had also visited during our 2010 and 2011 trips.  That was a long time ago though and I hadn't remembered quite how spectacular the journey was going to be.

As we followed the road alongside Loch Linnhe, it was so beautiful that we had to make an unscheduled stop to take some photos :) 


Just look at the views!

We were really lucky to be here on such a sunny day; I can imagine that if we'd been here in the rain on Tuesday, it wouldn't have been possible to see a thing.


The place where we'd been taking photos was a small settlement called North Ballachulish. From there, we crossed the loch via a large bridge (not the best photo as taken through the windscreen!).


From there it was only a couple of miles until we reached the small village of Glencoe.


Just driving through the village looking for parking was a scenic experience!


We found a small forest car park just outside the village and left the car there.


From there we walked back into Glencoe in search of somewhere to get lunch.


We found a small cafe where we were able to get a sandwich and some excellent cake :) Tim even had some Irn Bru!


Lunch complete, we walked back towards the car.


The car park was next to a small lake, so we followed a trail to get to a viewpoint.


The water was so clear here that you could see the reflections of the mountains in the lake :) 


We didn't have time to walk too far, because we still had a long journey ahead of us to get to Hawick. Leaving the car park behind, the first part of our journey was down this single track road with incredible views.


After that we joined the main road, but the views were no less spectacular.


The road through Glen Coe is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drives in the UK and it's easy to see why.


You could spend all day on the road if you stopped at every viewpoint. We were trying not to do that, but eventually we had to give into temptation and pull over.


I don't know what the name of this little loch was, but it was in a really lovely location.


Tim couldn't resist capturing it on video :) 

And I was particularly excited when we found these purple thistles growing; you couldn't really hope for anything more Scottish!


Time was pressing on though, so reluctantly we had to get back in the car and continue our journey south. The rest of the journey was actually pretty scenic too. We passed through Bridge of Orchy again, realising to our surprise that it actually wasn't particularly far from Glen Coe, and then we followed a small road through the Loch Lomand and Trossachs national park.


After that the scenery became a bit flatter, although we did get an unexpectedly good view of Stirling castle.


It was 8pm before we finally made it into Hawick, where we are staying in the same accommodation as last Saturday. That made things really easy, because we knew exactly where we were going and were able to let ourselves in with a key code.  All that remained was to walk to the local Wetherspoons to get some dinner. And, of course, come back to do the blog :) 

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