Scotland..the land of astonishing landscapes. UK's northernmost country is the land of ancient charming castles, rugged mountains, glacier glens (valleys) and deep lochs (lakes). Take that, and add a liberal amount of magic – the REAL Hogwarts Express and you get the perfect holiday for wizards and muggles alike.
Here’s how me and my husband planned the 3 day trip to the Scottish highlands from London.
Day 1: Edinburgh
Edinburgh is well connected to most major cities across the globe. From London, you can choose from train, flight and bus depending on your time and budget. Trains are usually expensive unless you book well in advance whereas buses are the cheapest but takes longer (7-8 hrs) to reach Edinburgh.
We covered most of Edinburgh on foot.
Edinburgh Castle: The city’s most conspicuous landmark and one of Britain’s most visited tourist attractions. To save time you might consider purchasing Skip the Line: Edinburgh Castle Entrance Ticket to be able to spend more time inside the castle
Royal Mile: the Royal Mile connects the Edinburgh Castle to Palace of Holyroodhouse. We found the part of Royal Mile on the Castle Hill to be particularly charming. The Royal Mile takes you back in time and here you can enjoy a leisurely walk taking in the quintessential Scottish architecture. Plenty of local cafes and restaurants. We also spotted a few Indian restaurants – in case you’re already missing Indian food.
St Giles Cathedral: St Giles Cathedral is the historic city church of Edinburgh. Centrally located and amazing architecture acts as a favorite backdrop for photos.
Day 2: Edinburgh – Fort Augustus
We leave Edinburgh early and drive towards the quaint hamlet of Dunkeld in Perthshire. You might like to take a woodland walk around the village or simply stop for some authentic Scottish breakfast. Plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from.
We move further north and pass through the scenic Cairngorm National Park before stopping at the Culloden Moor and battle field. The Culloden battlefield was where, on 16th April 1746 the Jacobite rising came to its brutal end in the last pitched battle on British soil. The visitor center is dedicated to retelling the events of the battle. It has a museum with artefacts from the battle. Experience the true horror of the battle recreated through an immersive film and take a tour of the battlefield. He visitor center also has a souvenir shop and restaurant in case you want to grab a sandwich
From here we head straight to the shores of the famous Loch Ness – home to the mysterious Loch Ness monster Nessie. This famous loch allures visitors who come here hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive creature believed to be lurking beneath the azure surface. You can take a cruise that takes you to the Urquhart Castle across the lake. The deep blue waters and the castle together present one of the most dramatic sceneries the highlands have to offer.
We now leave Nessie behind and reach the charming Fort Augustus, situated on the southern tip of Loch Ness. Summers give you ample time to explore this captivating hamlet, owing to its longer days. Make sure to visit the impressive 60 mile long Caledonian Canal and walk right up to the shores of the loch to enjoy outstanding unobstructed views.
Day 3: Fort Augustus – Mallaig – Glencoe – Edinburgh
We leave the guest house after a hearty Scottish breakfast and head towards Fort William – located in the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis. We reach the station and there waits the Hogwarts Express in its scarlet glory puffing smoke from its steam engine.!!!! There are 2 services – one in the morning and the other in the evening. You can either book a one way ticket to Mallaig or a return trip depending on your travel itinerary. Advance booking is highly recommended and same day tickets are usually limited
Tickets may be booked from http://www.westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/jacobite-steam-train-details.cfm. The Jacobite Steam train (as the train is officially called) has 2 classes on board. The first class offers a more vintage setting and bigger seats with complementary tea/coffee. The standard carriage comes with regular cushioned seats 4 to a table. Since the views remain the same, if you are on a budget, you shouldn’t miss out on much; and you can always buy refreshments from the trolley witch…!! Also, the views are better on the left hand side during the onward journey so try and get those seats if possible.
The train reaches this small harbor village where you can see the local fishing boats, take in the views of the Isle of Skye or take a cruise into the sea. There are plenty of local pubs which serve drinks along with local sea food. You can grab a meal here before returning to the train which brings you back to Fort William.
After the magical journey we travel towards another one of Scotland’s most popular glens – the Glencoe, recently voted as Scotland’s most romantic glens. Surrounded by misty mountains and waterfalls, Glencoe offers unmatched natural beauty. We pass though the Rannoch Moor and Stirlingshire on our way back to Edinburgh.
3 days is definitely not enough to explore this amazing country and it only makes you wish you never had to return. We only leave this amazing country having faith that destiny will bring us back here…and yes, the Magic does live on