Discover beautiful western Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland. Credit: Guy Richardson/VisitBritain
Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland. Credit: Guy Richardson/VisitBritain

In the far reaches of Britain lies a land so atmospheric that it has inspired myths of giants and fairies and where clan culture endures: welcome to western Scotland.

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland. Credit: Guy Richardson/VisitBritain
Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland. Credit: Guy Richardson/VisitBritain

Western Scotland has a dramatic and wild landscape that includes mountain peaks, glacial sea lochs, ruined castles and a profusion of islands, from the remote Outer Hebrides (known as the Western Isles) to the natural beauty of the Inner Hebrides, which includes the ‘Misty Isle’ of Skye.

Get to Skye

The Jacobite steam train crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct on the West Highland Rail. Credit: Alan Copson/AWL Images
The Jacobite steam train crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct on the West Highland Rail. Credit: Alan Copson/AWL Images

To reach Skye from London you can fly to Inverness or Glasgow and make your way by bus, train or car, but our favoured route is to book a berth on the Caledonian Sleeper train from London’s Euston, where uniformed staff will greet you at night, and show you to your cabin, where you can lay your head before waking up the following morning in Scotland.

You can get the Sleeper train all the way to Fort William from where it’s just over an hour’s train journey along the West Highland Line to Mallaig where you can catch the ferry to Skye, or you can jump off at Glasgow for a more leisurely journey along the line often touted as the most beautiful train route in the world.

From May to October you can get the Jacobite steam train from Fort William, which lies in the shadow of Ben Nevis, to Mallaig for a real vintage ride. The route goes over the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct – famous for its role in the Harry Potter franchise of films – and there is an old-fashioned dining car and museum to be enjoyed at Glenfinnan station.

Stay on Skye

View from Woodland Cottage, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Credit: Stephen Bennett
View from Woodland Cottage, Isle of Skye. Credit: Stephen Bennett

If you’re looking for a cosy bolthole in which to base yourself on your visit to Skye, then Woodlands Cottage, one of the offerings from Sykes Cottages, set on the edge of Loch Snizort, with stunning views across to the Quiraing, is it.

Inside, the two-bedroomed property is well equipped with plenty of warm tartan blankets to wrap up in as you watch the night sky from the comfort of the conservatory and its owners have thought of everything to make your stay more comfortable, from a well equipped (and large) kitchen, to plenty of comfy seating by the fireside and a good selection of books on the shelf.

Take a boat ride

Panoramic view from the summit of Sgurr na Stri on the Isle of Skye, looking over Loch Coruisk towards the Black Cuillin ridge. Credit: Stewart Smith Alamy
Panoramic view from the summit of Sgurr na Stri on the Isle of Skye, looking over Loch Coruisk towards the Black Cuillin ridge. Credit: Stewart Smith Alamy

From Elgol, on the south of the island, you can take a trip with Bella Jane boats to Loch Coruisk, one of the most remote lochs in Scotland, where seals bathe, puffins feed and legend has it that a kelpie, or spirit of a water horse, resides. Keep an eye out en route for minke whales, which are regularly spotted in these parts.

Eat locally

Fresh fish features heavily on the menu of Scorrybreac, the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Credit: Iain Smith
Fresh fish features heavily on the menu of Scorrybreac, the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Credit: Iain Smith

At the intimate Scorrybreac restaurant overlooking the colourful harbour of Portree, on Skye, the focus is on fresh, local ingredients and the attention to detail is high. Owner Calum Munro initially opened the restaurant as a pop-up a few doors along in his parents’ front room, but the 20-cover restaurant is now adding to the growing culinary scene on Skye, which includes two Michelin-starred restaurants.

Further exploration

If you want to explore more of western Scotland in comfort, then there are some fantastic routes offered by cruise companies. Argyll Cruising offers a selection of routes for a maximum of eight people from Holy Loch Marina, near Dunoon on board its smart trawler yacht. Highlights include the Hebridean Odyssey Cruise, which takes in Arran, Skye, Jura and Iona.

Meanwhile, Hebridean Island Cruises offers a selection of itineraries on board its luxury small cruise ship, the Hebridean Princess, which depart mainly from Oban, and which range from 4-10 nights.

The Standing Stones of Callandish, Isle of Lewis. Credit: VisitBritain
Basalt pillars line Fingal's Cave. Credit: National Geographic Image Collection/Alamy
Basalt pillars line Fingal’s Cave. Credit: National Geographic Image Collection/Alamy
Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran at dusk. Credit: Scottish Viewpoint/Alamy
Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran at dusk. Credit: Scottish Viewpoint/Alamy

For the full feature see the Jan/Feb 2016 (March 2016) issue of BRITAIN.

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