Scottish Highlands: Glasgow to Inverness via Loch Ness (2 day road-trip)

Scottish-Highlands-road-trip

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Two-day road trip – September 2021

Over two days, we drove about 500 miles. On our first day, we drove from Glasgow, past Loch Lomond, through Glencoe to Fort Augustus. We cruised Loch Ness and explored the ruins of Urquhart Castle before enjoying dinner and staying overnight at Drumnadrochit.

On our second day, we ventured past Inverness to Fort George, soaked up the spiritual energy at the Culloden Battlefields and the Clava Cairns, and returned to Glasgow along the same route.

We had planned on travelling back via the Cairngorms; however, a road accident closed the A9 for several hours, so we travelled the route in reverse when we returned to Glasgow.

We previously explored some of these places on a 2-day tour of the Scottish Highlands with Timberbush Tours.

Glencoe & Rannoch Moor

Travelling through Glencoe and Rannoch Moor from both directions (South to North and North to South) is amazing. The view is never the same due to the changing weather and light conditions.

The first three photos are from this trip and show Glencoe Valley’s left, middle, and right views. The other three photos are from our previous trips, and show how the weather can change the atmosphere, showing sunny and misty moods.

Read about the Glencoe massacre of 1692.

Glencoe-Valley
Glencoe Valley, Scotland – looking left (first of three photos)
Glencoe-Valley
Glencoe Valley, Scotland – looking forward (second of three photos)
Glencoe-Valley
Glencoe Valley, Scotland – looking right (third of three photos)
Manifest your move to Scotland - Glencoe Scottish Highlands
Glencoe, Scotland – Summer’s day
Glencoe_misty
Glencoe, Scotland – shrouded in cloud
Rannoch Moor Scotland
Ranoch Moor, Scotland

Fort Augustus & Loch Ness

We drove 3.5 hours to Fort Augustus and enjoyed a 50-minute cruise on Loch Ness.

Loch Ness is the UK’s largest freshwater loch (lake) by volume and its second deepest. It stretches for 23 miles (37km) from Fort Augustus to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Depth is estimated to be more than 270 metres in places. It contains more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. The World’s population (7.3 billion people) can fit in the Loch 15 times, with 260 million people able to stand on the surface. Due to its high peat content, visibility is exceptionally low (at about 4 inches), and the water appears nearly black. The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster (‘Nessie’) was by Saint Columba in 565AD. You can visit the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition.

LochNess-sign

Loch Ness_cruise
Cruising Loch Ness. Peat makes the water black, which severely limits visibility; another reason why finding Nessie is so difficult.
Loch Ness - loch system
Loch Ness – loch system
Loch Ness - loch system
Loch Ness – loch system
Loch Ness on a clear day
Loch Ness on a clear day

Urquhart Castle

We drove a further 30 minutes north to explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle.

This 1,000-year-old site was home to a medieval fortress for 500 years, with control passing between the Scots and the English during the Wars of Independence. With its commanding panoramic views of Loch Ness, a full-sized trebuchet, and medieval artefacts on display, it is highly recommended. If you plan to visit more than one Historic site in Scotland, save yourself some money by getting a Historic Environment Scotland membership.

Scotland_Lochness_Urquhart-Castle

Drumnadrochit

Overnight accommodation was at a nearby Airbnb property in Drumnadrochit. Affordable room with three single beds and a private bathroom. We had three adults in three single beds in one room, enjoying each other’s snoring all night.

Dinner was at the Loch Ness Inn. Affordable and tasty.

Fort George

Nearly 250 years ago, the British army built Fort George, taking 22 years to complete. The army base has never fired a shot in anger but is still in use, managed by Historic Environment Scotland. Today, the fort would cost nearly £1 billion to build and equip. You can walk around the main rampart, more than 1km in length, which encloses an area the size of five football pitches. Dolphins can be seen in the surrounding waters of the Moray Firth.

Fort-George-Scotland
Fort George – Scotland
Fort George - Scotland
Fort George – Scotland
Fort George - Scotland
Fort George – Scotland
Fort George - Scotland
Fort George – Scotland
Fort George - Scotland
Fort George – Scotland

Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns is a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age cemetery near Culloden Battlefield on the outskirts of Inverness. For Outlander Fans, standing stones resemble those at Craigh Na Dun (fictional location). There are also passage graves, a kerb ring cairn, and central ring cairns.

Clara Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clava Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clara Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clava Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clara Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clava Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clara Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clava Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clara Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clava Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Mushrooms at Clava Cairns near Culloden, Scotland
Clava Cairns near Culloden, Scotland

Culloden Battlefield

The Culloden Visitor Centre presents the journey of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Sound, vision, and storyboards present the events leading up to and including the Battle of Culloden from the perspectives of the Jacobites and the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops. Artefacts on display include guns, musket balls, swords, and shields.

After going through the museum, you walk onto the Culloden Battlefield to reflect on the tragic events of 16 April 1746. In less than an hour, 1,600 men – 1,500 Jacobites were slain. ‘Leanach Cottage’, a traditional thatched cottage built in the early 18th century, is situated on the battlefield near the red flags of the Government front line. The blue flags indicate the Jacobite front line. Clan markers indicate the graves of the fallen.

Culloden-battle
Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
Scottish side – Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
English side – Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
Leachach Cottage (Blackhouse) Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
Leachach Cottage (Blackhouse) Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
Clan Fraser - Culloden Battlefields, Scotland
Clan Fraser – Culloden Battlefields, Scotland

After viewing the museum and walking the battlefield, I highly recommend the cafe for a hot drink and a scone with jam and clotted cream. It helps warm you up after the usually chilly winds on the battlefield and helps bring you back from a sad or serious mood to your former cheery travel/holiday mindset.

Final thoughts

  • You can cover a lot in two days, but you will have to start early, no later than 8 am.
  • Check the websites for any attractions/activities you want to include to ensure there is availability and to buy tickets.
  • Many sites now have scheduled arrival times, and you should aim to be there at least 15 minutes before. If you are taking a cruise on Loch Ness, I recommend arriving 30 minutes before so you can join the front of the queue for a top-deck seat on the boat.
  • Membership will save you money if you are visiting more than one Historic Environment Scotland or National Trust Scotland site. You can get concession prices for couples, those under 25’s, etc.
  • Allow 1-2 hours for each attraction and schedule enough driving time between attractions.
  • If you are planning your drive using Google Maps or similar, the driving times assume you will be able to drive to the speed limit. I would suggest adding 25-50% to the times to allow for road speed, traffic, bicycles, and the ability to park and take a photo or enjoy a stroll at spots that take your fancy.
  • Stop in Glencoe, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes. Get out and walk on the grass to get a better view.
  • Pull into the Green Welly Stop at Tyndrum for a fuel top-up, food, and toilet break on the way to Inverness.
  • Plan and book your dinner before you leave. There aren’t too many restaurants that are open for dinner, and they close earlier than in the city and are often booked out.

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