Bucolic farmhouses, grazing highland cattle, bright blue skies and green, rolling hills as far as the eye could see greeted us as we (well, my husband) maneuvered our rental car outside the bustling city limits of Edinburgh, Scotland. After three weeks of living on a Semester at Sea ship, and exploring port cities by bus and on foot, we’d decided to get a little more adventurous with a road trip to Loch Lomond and a stay at the darling Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha, “Loch Lomond’s Ultimate Destination.” We deemed it “adventurous” namely because my husband had very little experience driving on the left-hand side of the road and driving a stick shift with his left hand!
I’m pretty sure he grew rather tired of my calling out, “Stay left! Stay left!” as we’d roll through small towns with funny names along our rural route: Buchlyvie, Milton of Buchanan, Cambusbarron. The kids just giggled in the back seat, and rolled down their windows to enjoy the fresh air. Renting a car to escape the confines of the port cities we’d docked in (Southampton, Lisbon, Bilbao) to have the opportunity to hit the open road and explore at our own pace was one of the highlights of our entire 10-week stint in Europe, while I worked as a Communications Coordinator on the SAS ship.
We only wish we’d had longer to discover more — two days at the tip of Loch Lomond was such a tease. We managed to spend some time on the famous lake, taking a water taxi to the preserved, historic island of Inchcailloch for a traipse around. A strenuous hike the “Summit Path” wasn’t, but we loved the lush environment; ferns, ferns and more ferns blanketed the island; they were so thick on either side of the narrow hiking trail. We were rewarded after our (slight) efforts with incredible views of the pretty loch. Then we motored to a little town with another funny name — Gatocharn — for a hike up a hill for more expansive views, and lunch at a tiny little pub for lunch (and a cider or two… not for the driver), where we had a lovely chat with the staff there. Throughout our stay in rural Scotland we encountered the most friendly people, as well as serene, green scenes. It just made me hungry to see and experience more.
So, for our next road trip from Edinburgh (because, on a return trip to Scotland, I’d definitely want to see more of its capital — again, two days weren’t nearly enough), I’m eyeing an itinerary that would give us more time on the shores of Loch Lomond, perhaps to hike the top of Ben Lomond via the Ptarmigan Summit Path (which requires some scrambling skills). I love the idea of taking some time to cycle the “National Cycle Route 7” which skirts the loch on its eastern side, and seeing more of the loch from the water, via the water busses that service transportation to a number of islands and villages.
Of course, if I had my druthers (and unlimited time and pocketbook) a dream trip would be to explore by car even further north — to Inverness, with nearby medieval ruins of Urquhart Castle and the ultra-famous Loch Ness. Also on my bucket list is the Isle of Skye to the northwest, famed for its breathtaking coastal scenery.
This post was written in partnership with Alamo.