We had lots of things scheduled for today but our plans fell through when we realized just how long it would take to drive north through the highlands. I think being quick to adapt to a new plan is one of my biggest lessons from this trip. I don’t believe one day has gone smoothly but that’s okay because we’ve seen so many cool things that we would have missed if we had stuck to my itinerary.

Scottish roads are not as frustrating as Irish roads but they do have their drawbacks too. Most of the roads are one lane so if you get stuck behind one slow driver or a truck it can add a lot of time to your journey. Almost always this is the reason why we have to change our plans. I packed a lot of things into my schedule knowing that we might have to add 30 minutes here or there but I did not know just how painful it is to go 40 miles an hour on a 80 mile an hour road.

Today we got up a bit late, drove behind slow people, made the wrong turn several times and also did more walking and photo-ops than we intended. So we only checked two off our list: Kilchurn Castle and the Three Sisters of Glencoe. Despite only doing “two things” today might have been my favorite day yet.

Kilchurn Castle

When you’re a tourist who has an appreciation for seeing a place in its natural setting you don’t want to see a million tourists ruining the original atmosphere of a place. So if you’re like us, then you will LOVE Kilchurn Castle, because this place is so far removed from the world of tourism. It retains a peaceful spot on on a rocky peninsula at the northeastern end of Loch Awe, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland.

Here’s a fair warning – Our GPS and Apple Maps didn’t know how to give us directions to the castle. Our whole trip has been marred by misdirections from Apple Maps so if you want to rely on apps to give you directions use Google Maps.

This castle is now a ruin that cannot be entered. It was built in the mid 1400s by the Campbells of Glenorchy. After the first Jacobite Rising of 1689, Kilchurn was converted into a garrison stronghold, until it was finally abandoned in the 1700s. (Historic Environment Scotland) Apparently the castle used to be on an island not much bigger than castle itself, but after the early 1800s the water level changed and it is now connected to the mainland.

When we got to the little parking lot the weather was a bit stormy. It had poured for 2 minutes on our drive there but the sun was shining dully through the clouds when we arrived. It felt eerie as we walked through the trees toward the castle. We had to walk under a bridge of train tracks, and go through a turnstile gate before making our way on a long path that led directly to the impressive site of Kilchurn.

The castle is surrounded by lakes and magnificent mountains. I tried to open the door but I guess nobody is allowed inside. (Makes sense. It is a ruin and very unstable.) We took hundreds of pictures and reveled in the tranquil scenery around us. There were literally about 8 other people there with us making it one of the most secluded places we have visited yet.

Just as we started walking back it began to pour with rain. It was at least a mile back to the car so we had to run before it got too muddy and we got too wet. Somehow it just felt so funny and very film-like to run in the middle of nowhere with mountains surrounding us and a castle at our back. If I ever get the chance to come back to Scotland I want to come back here. It was perfect. A perfect way to start our trip through the Scottish highlands.


Our next stop was the ‘Three Sisters of Glencoe” a set of three steeply-sided ridges that extend north into the Glen. We’re pretty sure we did see the three sisters as we drove through Glencoe because we saw signs for Bidean nam Bian and that is the name of the range of mountains on the south side of Glencoe.

Photos and videos don’t do this mountain range justice. It might be the most beautiful place I have ever been on earth and I have been to many places. The view takes your breath away as you drive through the vivid green grass, rocks and rivers. My favorite part is when we’d drive by little white houses that perched in the scenery as if it too had sprung out of the earth.

This is TMI but after eating and drinking at a restaurant we were another hour into driving and in the middle on nowhere when we both had to pee pretty badly. So we stopped at one of the many viewpoints, ran down the lower hills where we each found secluded spots.

Somehow this was a thrilling experience because the highway was still close by and we were running through one of the most beautiful places in earth. The grass felt very strange underfoot. It was squishy and springy but not sludgy. We both ended up sinking into the ground but it was so thick with the growth of plants and grass that the water didn’t absorb into the lower earth so we just stepped into non muddy water. It was actually really nice!

We visited the Glencoe visitors centre for a few minutes before deciding that it would be impossible to go all the way to the Isle of Skye. Of course we didn’t make that decision until we literally raced to try to get a ferry over but failed because it was sold out. You can get to the Isle of Skye via a bridge (which was our original plan) but it takes an extra +2 hours at least.

We decided to camp in the closest town to the ferry – Camusdarach.

Camping in Camusdarach

Camping here was both awesome and a nightmare. Awesome because we were able to just show up and get a place to stay fairly cheaply. The campgrounds seemed well kept and pretty. There was also a short walk through some trees and brush before getting to a couple of secluded white sand beaches. I had no idea that Scotland even had sandy beaches let alone ones of high quality. The water was also a very clear crystal blue.

One of my favorite natural features of Scotland is its flowers. The Hypericum perforatum, commonly known as St John’s Wart, are just stunning. In the Glencoe Visitors Centre you could purchase seeds for flowers but Addam informed me that immigration probably wouldn’t let me through with them 🙁 I hope I can find them in the U.S.! Anyway, the flowers covered the tops of the beaches. It made the view so beautiful.

The nightmare part came after we were cooking burgers and getting ready to sleep for the night. Swarms of the tiniest little insects you ever saw hovered around the campsite. Apparently we were the only ones who did not come prepared with protective face nets or long pants and sweaters. These tiny little things bite. Addam’s legs were covered in spots as if he had the chicken pox. Some of them got trapped in our van and we spent the night swatting them to no avail. Needless to say we were glad to be out of there the next morning.