This post is part of our Eurotrip Series. You can find the rest of the series here.
On Day 6, we spent almost the entire day traveling from Belfast to Dublin to Glasgow to Inverness! This may sound like kind of a bummer, but the drive through Scotland was actually quite breathtaking. We made a couple stops along the way to sample some scotch and enjoy the natural beauty of the highlands. Our day ended in Inverness with some fantastic AirBNB hosts, so be sure to check out the AirBNB spotlight.
- Air Travel/Transportation – How we got there and how we got around.
- Adventures – Write-ups of the activities we enjoyed during our visit.
HotelAirBNB Spotlight – Where we stayed and our review of the accommodations.
Aer Lingus – 4,000 Barclay Arrival+ Miles each
We looked at different options for this flight from Dublin to Glasgow before choosing Aer Lingus (this was before the transatlantic debacle). They offered a few daily flights between the two cities, some as cheap as $22 for earlier flights. We chose a mid-day flight, so we would have time to drive back from Belfast to Dublin airport. Our flights cost $40 each, and we redeemed our Barclay Arrival + miles to cover the charges.
Rental Car – $19/day x 5 (Paid with Chase Sapphire Preferred)
Once we arrived in Glasgow, we picked up our rental car – a manual transmission Nissan Juke. Oh yes, now I was going to have to shift gears with my left hand while driving on the right side of the road! I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to adapt to driving this way, and opting for a manual transmission saved $23 per day! As usual, we paid with our Chase Sapphire Preferred card to get the primary rental insurance coverage.
If you plan to visit Scotland, definitely rent a car! Take a drive by some of the tranquil lochs and through the rolling, mountainous highlands, and thank me later.
Our drive from Belfast to Dublin and the flight to Glasgow were relatively uneventful. We picked up our rental car at the Glasgow Airport and pointed north toward Inverness.
Like the great philosopher, Ron Burgundy, once said, “I love scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly.” I share Mr. Burgundy’s affinity for the distilled Scottish whiskey, so our first stop on the outskirts of Glasgow was the Auchentoshan Distillery. Auchentoshan is most famous for its sweet, triple distilled, lowland scotch. We did not have time to wait for the tour, so we enjoyed two samples from their tasting selection. Both the Distillery Cask and the Auchentoshan 21yr were delicious!
Mountains & Lochs
Leaving Auchentoshan, we quickly passed into Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park. The first hour of the drive was right along the banks of beautiful Loch Lomond, making it difficult to keep my eyes on the road. Next, we entered a mountainous region, where the road followed a winding path between huge, snow-capped mountains. For lunch, we stopped in Glencoe, a small town nestled into a valley among the mountains, along Loch Leven.
After lunch, we turned north along Loch Linnhe until we reached Fort William. The Caledonian Canal passes through Fort William, and it features an absolute engineering marvel called Neptune’s Staircase. This “staircase” is a set of eight locks, each featuring a 22-ton door, which lifts ships 64 vertical feet for passage into the upper Highlands. It was built in the early 1800’s and is the longest lock system in the UK.
Commando Memorial & Ben Nevis
The Commando Memorial monument sits just off the road, north of Fort William. The monument stands in memory of the original British Commando forces which trained in Scotland during WWII. Standing at the base of the monument on a clear day, you will have a fantastic view of Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland.
The final thirty minutes of our drive brought us along the western bank of the world-famous Loch Ness. We stopped a couple times to take pictures at Urquhart Castle, and to enjoy the serenity of the lake at dusk. Sadly, after reviewing our pictures, we did not capture any images of Nessie, the Loch’s resident monster.
Dinner in Inverness – The Kitchen
When we finally arrived in Inverness, we were famished! After nearly a full day of driving and flying, we wanted a hearty dinner. Our wonderful AirBNB hosts recommended a few local restaurants, and they even tried to call to set a reservation for us. Their #1 recommendation was The Kitchen, but unfortunately, it was fully booked. We decided to try walking in anyway, and I am so glad we did!
The Kitchen is a 3-floor, modern brasserie with unique character, eclectic Scottish dishes, and views of the river and castle. Our server said we had to try the local mussels, which were on special. We also decided to get our first taste of the Scottish delicacy, haggis (sliders). Both dishes were excellent, although, admittedly the haggis sliders took a bit of getting used to. If you find yourself in Inverness, definitely eat at The Kitchen!
Our AirBNB experience in Inverness can be described in a single word: OUTSTANDING! When the creators of AirBNB set up the website, this type of experience is likely what they had in mind. Our hosts, Jamie and Heather, both work for Visit Scotland, and they share an obvious passion for their home country! When I reached out to Jamie via the AirBNB website, he offered a huge list of suggestions for adventures in Scotland.
Heather welcomed us into their home, because Jamie was napping after a frigid surfing trip. (Surfing in March in the Highlands?!) She gave us a tour of the house, before Jamie woke up and greeted us with a jovial smile. Their house is very cozy, and we all sat and sipped tea in the living room, trading travel stories. We genuinely felt at home, like we were hanging out with old friends!
The bedroom was comfortable, and the bathroom was very clean. I believe it was a shared bathroom, but we couldn’t tell at all. We slept very well, and they had breakfast ready and waiting when we got up. We SO wish we could have stayed with them for much longer. Thanks for sharing the craic (Scottish for good times) with us, Jamie & Heather!
Our first day in Scotland was filled with scenic drives, snow capped mountains, gorgeous lochs, and a bit of scotch. We enjoyed delicious food and met some wonderful AirBNB hosts. What a great day in the Highlands!