|Photo by Freeimages.com/Abdu Kitany|
by Gavin Haines, The Daily Telegraph, June 15, 2016
From Harry Potter railways to the Highland version of Route 66, Telegraph Travel rounds up the best journeys to take around Scotland by train, car, bicycle and on foot.
Train 1. The Caledonian Sleeper
You’ve got to get there first, right? And there’s no better way to arrive in Scotland than on the Caledonian Sleeper, which departs London a whisker before midnight and arrives in Edinburgh (or Glasgow) just in time for breakfast. Knock back a few drams in the dining cart before nodding off in your cabin and waking up in Auld Reekie. Alternatively, hop aboard an earlier service to Fort William, which creeps out of London at 9.15pm and terminates in the Highlands a smidgen before 10.00am the following morning.
The Caledonian Sleeper is arguably the best way to arrive in ScotlandCredit: ALAMY
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2. The Glasgow to Mallaig
“There’s barely a dull mile,” wrote Telegraph Travel’s rail expert Anthony Lambert after completing the journey. “Even the departure from Glasgow affords fine views over the Clyde as the train climbs above the river. The whole of the route on to Mallaig is a succession of wonderful views that banish any thought of reading.” Though there are many highlights, Harry Potter fans will be particularly awed by the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which the Hogwarts Express has chugged over on more than one occasion.
Harry Potter fans may remember this stretch of the Glasgow to Mallaig.
3. The Kyle Line
Often overshadowed by the Glasgow to Mallaig railway, the Kyle Line serves up some equally impressive scenery – think wild mountains, rugged coastline and remote villages – as it wends its way from Kyle, near the Isle of Skye, to Inverness. Along the way look out for wild deer, sandy beaches and the stunning village of Plockton, which was used as a backdrop for the film Wicker Man.
Great British rail journeys: 10 of the best Car4. North Coast 500
“Scotland’s answer to Route 66,” crowed the tourist board when the North Coast 500 was launched in 2015. Our scribe Ben Riley-Smith was suitably impressed with the new 516-mile route. “Prehistoric bone caves, grand hunting lodges, humming harbours, heather-covered mountains – all play their part in Scotland’s history and its mythology,” he wrote. “Having them at the roadside, accessible at the flick of an indicator, is a luxury that few should pass up.”
The scenic Bealach na Bà mountain pass in the Scottish HighlandsCredit: ALAMY
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5. Loch Lomond to Loch Ness
You’ll struggle to find more dramatic views from the driver’s seat than on the A82, which begins in Glasgow and ends 167 miles north in Inverness. This scenic highway takes in Loch Lomond, Ben Nevis, and finally Loch Ness, as it steers through the Highlands in a seemingly endless series of sweeping bends and hairpin turns. It’s a beauty and a beast: the Tarbet to Tyndrum stretch is considered one of Britain’s most dangerous roads, so drive carefully.
The A82 is a beauty and a beast as it steers through the Highlands.
6. The Isle of Skye
Surely Skye’s scenic highways deserve more exciting names: the A87, A855, A850 and A863 hardly evoke the spirit of a classic road trip. But don’t be fooled, for these roads are some of the most beautiful stretches of tarmac in Britain, skirting as they do past rugged coastlines, windswept countryside and remote villages. They’re also littered with landmark attractions such as the Old Man of Stoor, Dunvegan Castle and, of course, the Talisker Distillery.
7. The Tweed Cycleway
Good news: riders taking on the Tweed Cycleway start at 650-ft above sea level in Biggar and finish on the coast in Berwick-upon-Tweed, which means this 89-mile route is downhill(ish). Piercing the heart of gorgeous Border country, it uses quiet roads and passes fine towns, hill and forests, with rail links near the start and finish.
Good news for amateurs: the Tweed Cycleway is largely downhill.
8. The Scottish C2C
Opened in 2014, this 125-mile coast-to-coast route starts in the southern town of Annan on the Solway Firth in Dumfries and Galloway and wends its way through three scenic valleys – the Annan, Tweed and Esk – before finishing beneath the spectacular Forth Bridge, just north of Edinburgh. A fine way to explore southern Scotland.
The Scottish C2C cuts through the splendid Tweed Valley
9. The Lochs and Glens North
You’ll want a decent pair of padded shorts for this 214-mile beast, which takes cyclists through Scotland’s two national parks – Loch Lomond and the Cairngorms – past six lochs, countless castles and over the scenic Glen Ogle viaduct. There are some serious climbs along the way, but you’ll be more than compensated for by the spectacular scenery.
- Read more: the best places to stay on Scottish lochs
10. Holy Island
“The complex geology of the Isle of Arran provides some fascinating walks,” writes Telegraph Travel’s resident rambler, Richard Madden . “But Holy Island, off its east coast, with its community of Tibetan Buddhists has a uniquely peaceful atmosphere.” Take the short ferry ride from Lamlash to the northern jetty where a volunteer is often available to orientate you. If not, the information centre has all the details. “Don’t miss St Molaise’s Cave, the Holy Well and the Tibetan rock paintings,” adds Madden.
Holy Island is home to Tibetan Buddhists and some exquisite scenery.
Burg on the Isle of Mull's Ardmeanach Peninsula is home to 200-million-year-old fossils, an Iron Age farm, and volcanic soils that allow rare plants to thrive, and provide grazing lands for red deer and wild goats. Insect species that might be spotted on this coastal route include rare slender Scotch burnet moth, the chimney sweep moth, and the dark green fritillary butterfly. The path, which is tricky to negotiate in places, offers fine views of Staffa and the Treshnish Isles.
Excellent walking trails abound on the Ardmeanach Peninsula.
Torridon's rugged mountains, loch waters and green deer parks hold some of Scotland's best views. Even without the summits of mountains such as Beinn Eighe, lower-level exploration has much to offer, with the estate hosting a varied flora and fauna. The National Trust for Scotland has mapped out several walks across Torridon, which vary in difficulty.
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This article was written by Gavin Haines from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.