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driving in scotland
Written by Jeremy Hawkings / May 2009

Scenic Drives In Scotland

There are some roads which motoring aficionados and petrol heads love to discuss and drive. Highway 1 in California comes to mind, as do the mountain passes in France, but for great beauty and very much nearer home, you cannot beat Scotland as a driving paradise.

Driving in the Scottish countryside is a relaxed and rewarding experience. Not for us the overcrowded, bumper to bumper traffic jams which seem to be the norm in so many places elsewhere.

We are lucky to have wide open spaces with more sheep than there are cars, where you will often have the opportunity to see a red squirrel, some deer or even the famed golden eagle and with no mention of a congestion charge.

The air is pure, the quality of the light enables outstanding photography and the absence of any hustle and bustle provides great peace and quiet.

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In this month’s newsletter we look at three roads in Scotland which will give a world class driving experience.Conveniently, one is on the west coast, one on the east and the last one immediately south of Edinburgh.

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Inverlochy Castle Hotel to Pool House

The Road to the Isles is unquestionably one of the most spectacular, beautiful roads in the world. Leave Inverlochy Castle Hotel, recently voted to be the finest hotel in Europe, and turn left on the A82 towards Spean Bridge and just after the town you will pass the Commando Memorial. It was here under the shadow of Ben Nevis that the commandos trained in the early days of the Second World War before the Normandy invasion.

Continue on that road until you reach Invergarry and then turn left towards Kyle of Lochalsh. Initially you will drive alongside Loch Garry and Loch Loyne before reaching Loch Clunie. The road follows the loch are there are several stopping points which offer dramatic views and good photo opportunities.

If you left Inverlochy Castle Hotel mid morning it will be lunch time by the time you reach Clunie Inn and a stop here is well worthwhile. You will almost certainly meet some climbers and walkers who will tell you about the countryside. You then continue your journey towards Loch Duich and the mountain peaks known as 'The Five Sisters of Kintail’ before reaching Eilean Donan, one of the most beautiful and most photographed castles in the world.

You are now near Kyle which could take you to Skye, but our journey continues north past Stromferry, which used to be a busy ferry port.

 

The railway from Inverness used to terminate at here and steamers sailed to the Isle of Skye until the railway was extended to Kyle. The ferry stopped sailing when the new road was built. Continue alongside Loch Carron to Achnasheen where we turn left for the final part of the trip.

This takes you along Loch Maree, once again with several stopping points which offer ample opportunities for photography and then into Poolewe where you will find Pool House, where the water of Loch Ewe meets the sea. Pool House has the atmosphere of a private residence, with seven suites filled with antique furniture, paintings and porcelain. The journey is 135 miles through some of the most spectacular highland countryside in Scotland.

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Edinburgh

The minor road B 709 which runs some 16 miles from Middleton to Innerleithen is a wonderful afternoon’s drive just a few minutes from Edinburgh. Join the A7. Pass through Middleton and Fala Hill and then turn right onto the B709.

You are now in the Moorfoot Hills and initially you will have wide open views of the farming countryside. As you continue the road becomes more enclosed and you find yourself driving between two enormous hills clad in heather. Further on, the scenery opens out again as you approach Windlestraw Law, 2162 feet, which is the highest peak in this range of hills. You will follow Innerleithen Golf Course for some time and then at the golf club you cross the river. As you approach Innerleithen you will pass the sign for St Ronan’s Well, the historic spa, built in 1827, which was a magnet for the Victorians in need of the curative waters and visited and written about by Robert Burns. When you arrive in the village visit Traquair House, well known as the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. You are now on A72 which winds its way through carefully nurtured farm lands to Peebles. From here you are about an hour from Edinburgh via A703.

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The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa to the Gleneagles Hotel

The last route is from The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa which is on the A93, to the west of Aberdeen. This part of Scotland is in the heart of Scotland’s Castle and Whisky country - home to more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK. If you have time, there is a Castle Trail and the world’s only Malt Whisky Trail in the vicinity.

For this journey we will leave The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa and turn right along the A93, towards Banchory, Aboyne and Ballater where you will find the Royal Lochnagar Distillery. At Crathie is the little church where the Royal Family worships when they are at Balmoral Castle.

At Braemar the road turns south and runs alongside Clunie Water before arriving at Glenshee Ski Centre and the Devil’s Elbow although the old road has now been bypassed by a more modern road without so many of the hair pin bends. If you are driving this road in the winter, which will often give outstanding snow scenes, it is worthwhile obtaining a weather forecast beforehand.

Continue down Glen Shee and meet up with The Black Water on the way to Blairgowrie, home of the world’s finest raspberries and other fine soft fruits and venue of the famous Blairgowrie Highland Games. Four miles south of Blairgowrie on the A93 is the world's longest and tallest hedge, the Meikleour Beech Hedge. At Perth you have two options. Turn right and drive to The Gleneagles Hotel. This journey from Banchory to Perth is some 90 miles and not a road to be hurried.

         

It offers wonderful views and several places well worthwhile stopping and getting out of the car. Allow three hours at least if you really want to enjoy the countryside.

Jeremy Hawkings.
Chief Executive

Luxury Scotland
Tel: +44(0)1786 821 860 
Fax: +44 (0)1383 825 700
E: dorothy@luxuryscotland.co.ukyes the body copy

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