3 - 5 November 2005
I have always had this tour on the top of my wish list. Due to a donation from my dear, dear mother (including a solid kick up my backside), I realised this dream during the first weekend of November 2005. Dreams are always better than realities. In this case, the opposite is the truth. I had no clue that this tour would be so good as this. It was a brilliant, brilliant experience from beginning to end.
This is a meagre attempts to describe in words and pictures how good this tour is. I hope I will inspire you to do the same tour yourself.
About the route
I have travelled a lot around Scotland and I feel that I have enough knowledge about to Scotland to conclude that this tour is the best - the ultimate - tour of Scotland. It is head and shoulder above the rest.
The tour does not have a single dull moment and it includes so much fantastic scenery that the brain will have problem sorting things out. It is a feast of beautiful nature. 6 - 7 hours on a bus seems like a long time. But time flies too fast in a nice, comfortable bus with this scenery outside the windows. Highlights of the tour is Glen Coe, Loch Lomond, Skye, the two ferries, Western Isles and Stornoway.
Route, costs and useful details
I used Multimap during my planning and I would advice you to open up the link and use it during the browsing of my pictures.
This route is served by City Link buses, Buses on Western Isles & CalMac ferries
BUS Glasgow - Uig at Skye: £ 20 (I got it for £ 6)
FERRY Uig at Skye - Tarbert at Harris: £ 9
BUS Tarbert at Harris - Stornoway at Lewis: approx. £ 5 (I got a free lift due to a near-fatal planning error)
BED AND BREAKFAST: £ 17 - 30 a night (I got it for £ 22 a night, two nights)
BUS Around Isle Of Lewis: £ 3.50
FERRY Stornoway at Lewis - Ullapool: £ 12
BUS Ullapool - Glasgow: £ 20
TOTAL = approx. £ 110
PLEASE NOTE: During the winter months (November - March), there is no bus between Tarbert and Stornoway serving this route. I was very lucky indeed 'cause I got a lift. THEREFORE, DO this route in reverse. Which means bus from Glasgow to Ullapool, Ferry to Stornoway, one or more in Stornoway and Isle Of Lewis, bus to Tarbert, Ferry to Uig at Skye, Bus to Glasgow. I believe this is the best route, summer and winter due to daylight problems on the bus crossing from Tarbert to Stornoway.
Please note that the sabbath is strictly observed on Sundays in the Western Isles. No ferries or buses runs on Sundays. All food stores, pubs and cafees is also closed. That also goes for Stornoway. It is a good idea to avoid spending Sundays on these islands.
Please note that Stornoway is a popular destination now and there is not many B & B hotels there. Make reservations at least 14 days in advance.
Please also note that the sea between the Scottish mainland and the Western Isles (Lewis and Harris) can be very rough. Delays, even cancellations, is not uncommon. Which makes this tour a bit special and risky. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts before you start the tour
Please purchase some seasickness tablets before leaving Glasgow for the ferries. During the summer, the Western Isles is infamous for it's midges. Midge repellents is necessary.
About the photos....
The photos was taken by a Kodak EasyShare CX6200 camera with 2 mega pixels. Please note that I am also a total idiot with a camera. Most of the pictures was taken through a bus window due to using normal buses which does not stop every five minutes for photo breaks. The photos only serves as an inspiration for you to take the same tour and not as a documentation of these brilliant places. There are far better pictures on the web and on postcards. Enjoy, get inspired and laugh.
Let's start the tour...
The bus rolled out of Buchanan bus station in Glasgow at precise 0700 in the morning. It was dark and rainy. The bus drove through the city centre, through Clydebank and towards Loch Lomond, along this fantastic lake (loch), up the mountain to Crianlarich and over Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe to Fort Williams. Due to difficult daylight and plenty of pictures of these places elsewhere on the web, I took no pictures. But visit Loch Lomond , Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe .
All of these places are in the top ten over best places in Scotland !!! In particular, I love, absolute LOVE the splendour of Glen Coe and I think it is one of the most beautiful places on this planet.
The bus drove past a nice bridge and a fjord to Fort Williams. From this rather big and busy town, the bus drove past Spean Bridge and along the Great Glen. Wellknown territory to me after cycling it twice. At Invergarry, we left the Great Glen and headed up another glen towards a big loch and as it turned out; over a rather steep mountain. I took note for later use on my cycle... I did not know anything about this part of the tour so this mountain came as a positive surprise. The following picture is from this mountain.
After going down to the crossroad where we met the road from Loch Ness, we continued straight west along the barren mountain at Loch Cluanie and down the impressive Glen Shiel. No pictures due to rain and being seated on the wrong side of the bus. But believe me, it was some stunning views. The road then followed the loch towards Kyle Of Lochalsh and past this castle (a tour report from Scotland is not complete without a castle)
Eilean Donan (Castle) at Dornie
The tour out to Kyle Of Lochalsh revealed some more nice landscape. Nice. Kyle Of Lochalsh is to a certain degree dominated by this quite ugly Skye bridge. But ugly is necessary in this instance and the bridge itself is a very good viewpoint. I have cycled around Skye before and I have some tonnes of pictures I will put out later. There is some good info and
pictures and some other info from this island which I rate as the best place in Scotland when it comes to scenery. The tour over Skye, although avoiding the best parts, was stunning. The following pictures is taken from the mountain between Loch Ainort and Sligachan . I was again situated on the wrong side of the bus and could not do anything more. But the tour to Portree is so beautiful that words and pictures does not do it full justice. It is a must-do. Just after Sligachan, the road also passes under the most beautiful mountains in UK and Scotland; The Cuillins
Towards Portree from Sligacahan
Portree is a beautiful town and worthy a stay. But I was heading alongside the Trotternish peninsula for Uig and the ferry. The scenery was as usual stunning at the road towards Uig. I remembered the epic tour of Skye I did five years ago on my bike. Due to exhaustion, an overdose of hills and high winds, I collapsed just before Uig that summerday and I was totally shot to pieces. Memories, memories........ and glory days !! The next picture is the ferry The Hebridean. The road in the background is the one going back to Portree and Glasgow again. The bus I followed is also in the picture
At Uig with the ferry to Tarbert
From the ferry towards Skye again. The ferry took only 90 minutes over what they call the Little Minch. It was big enough for me. The ferry was superb and I spent time watching the landscape and feeling that finally, FINALLY, this dream was turning into reality. I also spent time with this couple from Doncaster I had got a ride from. I discovered at Uig that there was no evening bus from Tarbert to Stornoway during the winter....
Looking back to Skye. The adventure has begun !!
After an hour, we were approaching Tarbert at Harris.
Towards Tarbert and Harris
Finally arriving at Tarbert . A wild 37 mile long drive in semi-darkness followed from Tarbert to Stornoway over Harris and Lewis . What I thought was a flat tour on a flat island developed into a tour in the Alps. Up and down for a long way. I will do this again in daylight....... on a bike !!
Towards Tarbert in darkness
Arriving in Stornoway and after a nice night at a very nice B & B on the outskirts of Stornoway, I was on my feet again the morning after. A nice bus journey with the bus followed. The wilderness of Lewis blew me away. Unbelievable wild and remote. At the same time; beautiful. The following pictures is from this journey.
Harris and Lewis in rain. The inland was full of lakes and an eldorado for the flyfisher/angler.
Carloway is a small village and very different from other Scottish villages. More like a Norwegian village...
The wild west coast of Lewis and the end of the world...... It feels like it !! Notice the sheep. They were everywhere.
Returning back to Stornoway after some (too few !!) hours on the local bus, I went around the town and enjoyed every minute of it. It is a nice town with all the things you need. The harbour and the Lews Castle dominates the town. I spotted the War Memorial on the way in from Lewis on the bus and I went back again there by taxi for some more pictures. The following pictures are from this "expedition". It was blowing cold and it was a bit of a climb/walk from the road (1. km). But it was worth everything !!
The war memorial, raised after the World War 1. Unfortunate, a more bloody war followed later (WW2). Whole generations of young men from Lewis was wiped out during WW1. It was sobering and very sad to read the looong list of those who went from this remote island to the Westfront and never returned. Never more war.
Stornoway from the war memorial. The green grass to the right is Stornoway Golf Club.
Laxdale on the east-coast just north of Stornoway.
Tunga, just north of Laxdale on the east-coast.
North of Stornoway and more inland again. Tough world, this world...
All good things must end. I left the B & B the morning after at 0630 and walked the 15 minutes down to the harbour and the ferry to Ullapool . The boarding of Isle Of Lewis ferry was very smooth. A big thank you to City Link which took my rucksack as luggage and gave it back to me at Inverness. Appreciated !! There was semi-darkness and all pictures went black. The next pictures is from the ferry.
One hour into the ferry ride out of this three hours long journey. Isle Of Lewis and Stornoway in the background. The ferry was brilliant, btw
The very alpine mountains of Sutherland. An large wilderness which is the north-east corner of Scotland and UK mainland. The Torridon mountains is the most famous of them. This one of the most remote wilderness in Europe.
The very alpine mountains around Gairloch, south of the Ullapool region, towars Skye. A mountain lovers paradise.
Sailing in Loch Broom towards Ullapool. This fjord is quite long....... and beautiful.
Ullapool at the end of almost three hours ferry ride over one of the toughest seas in Europe; the Minch. This ferry ride really bring home how remote the Western Isles is from the rest of Scotland and UK. The ferry only do this journey twice a day and is closed on Sundays. That says it all. Remote and very, very beautiful.
The rest of the tour, the 7 hours short bus journey, was a bit damaged by getting seats at the wrong side of the bus again. The bus journey from Ullapool went in a small fjord called Loch Broom. From the end of this, up a mountain and over a moor which I guess must be quite hellish during strong wind and snow, making this area + Western Isles even more remote than it already is. This picture is from this moor.
Wild, remote and stunning beautiful. That sums up the road between Ullapool and Cromarty Firth.
The road then followed a narrow valley (glen) down to the Cromarty area before crossing Black Isle and crossing a large bridge to the busy capitol of the Highlands; Inverness. After an hour stop in Inverness (coffee and some walking around the bus and railway station), the bus headed over Tomatin and the Dava Moor (400 meters above sea level) down the M9 to Carrbridge , up the Spey River to Aviemore and Kingussie and up the valley to Dalwhinnie . The road then went over an almost 500 meters above sea level moor, which is the geographic heart of Scotland, towards Blair Athol and the the Pitlochry area, including the very beautiful village of Pitlochry. The road followed the valley down to Perth where I changed bus to Glasgow. The road over Gleneagles and Dunblane is nice. Stirling was the last stop before the bus crossed over to the west coast again and my home on the west coast, near Glasgow . THE END OF A BRILLIANT TOUR OF SCOTLAND !!!!!!!!
It was a brilliant tour and I am much grateful. I would like to endorse and thank Undiscovered Scotland for their brilliant webpage. Most of the links on this website is taken from them.
But most of all, I am in awe of the brillant and very, very difficult job CalMac ferries is doing in Scotland. I have taken their ferries many times. They are serving Scotland well and they are the only reason why people like myself get access to the many islands of Scotland. This company deserves praise, praise and utter praise. I was very impressed by the standard of their Isle of Lewis ferry (Stornoway - Ullapool) and I highly recommend this ferry.
I also had the pleasure of tasting the brilliant ales (beer) of Hebridean Brewery during my stay in Stornoway. Their ales deserve recognition and praise. The same goes for the ales of Skye Brewery. Both of these two breweries deserve better distribution than they have today !!
I had a look at the only 18 holes golf course in the Western Isles and I am sure you can do a lot worse than playing a round of golf at Stornoway Golf Course
This concludes this tour. Please feel free to contact me.
HAPPY JOURNEY !!!