Scottish Roadtrip Days 4 and 5: Isle of Lewis

Carnish beach

Day four started with a lie in then a crofters breakfast (fry up) at our hotel (The Royal Hotel in Stornoway); we’re on holiday, it would be rude not to! After breakfast we jumped in the car to go to the Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point on the island, but somehow ended up driving to the lighthouse at the end of the Eye Peninsula, the most easterly point! We had been planning on going there anyway, so it wasn’t too much of a problem, we just headed back to Stornoway and started again, this time finding the A857 over the moors to the west coast, then up to the Butt of Lewis. Stornoway reminded me a bit of Reykjavik and the villages on the way up the coast reminded me of these remote arctic villages you sometimes see on TV, but I guess they aren’t too far off that, being remote themselves. The lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis was suitably impressive, as were the cliffs, we had a wonder around, took some photos and headed back down the coast to pick up the A858 to take the long way back to Stornoway.

The A858 is another great driving road, quite tight and twisty is places, generally well sighted but with lochs right next to the road with no crash barriers to give you a reality check! The traffic was next to non-existent so we were able to keep a good pace, but still slow down to check out the tourist signs, early afternoon the rain even stopped so we could get the roof down! The two main sights to see on the route are the Carloway Broch and the Callanish standing stones. We initially drove past Carloway and went straight to the Callanish Stones visitor centre, where we saw a familiar looking coach, it turned out that we weren’t the only people from Warwickshire on the island. As seemingly the main visitor attraction on the island, the visitor centre was suitably impressive, with cafe, shop and audio visual guide to the history of the stones and other sights on the island, including what we had driven past in Carloway (it hadn’t clicked that the Broch signposted was the one that we’d seen a picture of at lunchtime). We walked up the smalls hill to the standing stones, which we were free to walk around before heading back up the road to see the Broch, I actually thought this was more impressive than the standing stones, even if it was only the remains of someone’s (albeit impressive) house, rather than of spiritual importance. We were able to climb all over the ruins of the Broch, which I’m sure would be a health and safety inspectors nightmare. With the sightseeing done, we pointed the little Mazda back down the A858 towards Stornoway and after a walk around the town had a great dinner in the hotel.

Day 5 started much the same as day 4, but the rain was heavier! Our only plan for the day was to drive to Carnish, which according to Google would have only taken us an hour, so we decided to explore the grounds of Stornoway Castle. Unfortunately we couldn’t visit the castle as it is being refurbished, so we got absolutely soaked walking through the woods and admiring the view over the town, eventually ending up in the cafe for a nice warm drink.

Rather than heading straight to Carnish we went via the Ravenspoint centre, just off the A859, which is the road to Tarbert, we’ll be going that way tomorrow, but probably will not have time for sightseeing as we’ll have a ferry to catch. The road was much like the A858, so it will good to drive again! The Ravenspoint centre is a small community run shop/museum/cafe next to Loch Eireasort, we had a nice lunch and I took some photos over the loch.

To get to Carnish we had to head back up the A859, back along the A858, although not quite as far a Callanish then down the B8011, which seemed to switch between a new/old road surface and single track/two lane road, which made for an interesting drive. At around Miavaig we saw a sign for “Circular sightseeing route”, which of course we had to take, it was well worth the 20 minute detour to get a taste of the lovely beaches this area has to offer. The best beach however, is the massive one at Uig, which dominates the view out of our bedroom window at Auberge Carnish, a great recommendation by Rachel! Almost as soon as we had checked in we walked straight down to the beach, only to find that we were cut off from the main expanse of it by a river, so had to settle for the smaller, but equally beautiful Carnish beach (in the photo), which we had all to ourselves!

The day ended with a great Scottish/French fusion meal at the hotel, certainly one of the best I’ve had!

Mileage so far: 737

Scottish Roadtrip Day 3: To Lewis!

MX-5 at Glenshee

The roadtrip proper started today, we had to get to Ullapool by 17:00 to catch the ferry to Stornoway and just going up the main road seemed a bit boring.

So we devised a more scenic route via the A93 through Blairgowrie, to check out where my auntie has recently bought a holiday home, then Glenshee, so Jen can see where I escape to when we come to Perth during the snowboard season. Everytime I drive up to Glenshee I think what a great road it would be in the summer in my MX-5 and it was even better than I was expecting! The hills were purple with heather and the traffic next to non-existent, we stopped for a quick photo at the ski centre which for me was quite surreal without the snow, then headed down through Braemar and on towards Ballater.

We then cut across to the A939 towards Grantown on Spey, with a quick stop to eat our sandwiches at the Lecht ski centre. The A939 was also a great road but I could see why my Mum hated it when she drove us up to the Lecht to go snowboarding almost 10 years ago.

From Grantown we cut across to the A9 via Carrbridge and pressed on past Inverness and over the Kessock bridge which had great views over the Moray Firth, so good in fact that we stopped at the viewpoint almost immediately after the bridge. From the layby there was a path down the hill to North Kessock, which was a nice little village seemingly forgotten since the bridge replaced the ferry from Inverness bypassing the village.

The A835 up from Inverness was another awesome road, more open and flowing than the A93 and A939, but unfortunately busier, probably with people also catching the ferry to Stornoway. Jen woke up from a nap as we were passing Loch Glascarnoch, so I pulled over into one of the many laybys and let the traffic clear, once the traffic was out of earshot there was just silence, we really were in the middle of nowhere!

We made it to Ullapool with plenty of time to spare, filled up the MX-5 then parked up at the free car park next to Tesco – top tip: just check in for the ferry, their holding area is much nearer the town and you don’t have to stay with your car. Whilst enjoying a drink at a pub opposite the harbour we agreed that Ullapool felt a lot like Punterenas (see Costa Rica Day 6 on my blog) – a lot of people just waiting for a boat to arrive!

I’m writing this post as we cross over to Stornoway and yes, I have taken the traditional off the back of the boat picture!

Mileage so far: 541

Scottish Roadtrip Day 2: Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

After the long drive yesterday (7 hours door to door) its a rest day for the MX-5, but we still had things to do! After a relaxed morning in Perth wandering around the city and buying a birthday present for my Dad, we jumped on a train to Edinburgh to take in the festival.

After a bit of rain in the morning the weather in Edinburgh was gorgeous, with all the bustling street and people sat outside cafes we could have been somewhere in France/Spain, but the architecture and Scottish accents reminded me where I was.

We spent most of the afternoon wandering around the old town and taking in the atmosphere on the royal mile, before heading to the Pleasance Courtyard to see YouTube sensation Brett Domino. The show was really funny and apparently we will be appearing in a video soon!

After the show we had our dinner outside at a Kurdish restaurant (different but very nice), took a stroll through Princes Street gardens and got the train back to Perth. Crossing the Fourth rail bridge we were treated to a spectacular sunset over the Firth of Forth.

Mileage so far: 355

Scottish Roadtrip Day 1: The M6 Carpark

Plenty of room!

The MX-5 is loaded up and we’re heading to Scotland! The mk3 MX-5 has a deceptively big boot for a car so small, we’ve managed to fit in both our clothes for a 10 day trip (including a very restrained 5 pairs of shoes for Jen) and my camera kit with room to spare.

I’ve been wanting to go to the Isle of Lewis for years, last year I got a car suitable for the roadtrip and for Christmas my parents bought us an island hopper ferry ticket with Caledonian MacBrayne and booked us some hotels, it was going to happen this year! Even before we went to Costa Rica we’d planned our itinerary and booked the remaining hotels and now we’re on our way up!

The worst thing about going to Scotland is always the slog up the M6 (although I still prefer it to flying or taking the train), but even before that we had a day at work to get through, which seemed to drag. After the out of offices had been set and the MX-5 brimmed with fuel I pointed it towards the M6 toll road to avoid as much of the V Festival traffic as possible, unfortunately we had to have the roof up due to the rain.

The M6 toll was great and we were making good time, until we hit the M6 which was a car park all the way up to Manchester. Jen took over the driving duties doing really well in the traffic and rubbish weather, despite being nervous having only driven the MX-5 a handful of times. I’ll take over the driving again at Carlisle and drive through to my parents flat in Perth where we will be spending our first few nights.

Mileage so far: 185